This week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has fired the commander of the South Sudanese peacekeeping force. A report found that peacekeepers had failed to protect civilians in July after a break out of fighting in the country and that this failure resulted in the deaths of over a dozen individuals. During this outbreak of fighting, peacekeepers abandoned their posts and did not respond to pleas of help from aid workers close to the UN compound. The UN is now trying to identify the peacekeepers responsible for these security failures but stressed that it would then be up to China, India, Ethiopia and Nepal to discipline these peacekeepers for not fulfilling their duties as a blue helmet.
A peacekeeping force made up of troops from China, India, Ethiopia and Nepal has been deployed in South Sudan since it gained independence in 2011. Shortly after its independence, allegations of corruption and a planned coup saw the country descend into a civil conflict. Last year, rebel forces signed a peace agreement but the country has unfortunately seen a resurgence of instability and fighting not long after this agreement was signed. More than 10,000 people have died in this conflict and many civilians have also been unable to access basic necessities, such as food or water.
South Sudan is a country which has experienced a bloody and violent civil conflict. The United Nations peacekeeping force was meant to assist the country with maintaining peace and security while they enacted the peace agreement. However, the accusations present in this report is concerning. These accusations indicate a clear denial of peacekeepers to fulfill their duties and mandates as blue helmets and resulted in the death toll of this conflict rising. On top of this failure to do their jobs, the actions of a few peacekeepers has the potential to impact the ability of other peacekeepers in conflict situations. For these operations to be successful, it is crucial that there is support and confidence among the local population. By failing to provide assistance to civilians, these peacekeepers have undermined the operation and have a high risk of losing the confidence and support of the local population. This ultimately negatively impacts the operation and its ability to function in these conflicts.
It is essential that the United Nations continues to investigate these claims and find those who are responsible. Ki-moon’s actions earlier this week not only reflect justice for those who were killed or harmed due to these failures but also send a clear message to the rest of the world that this kind of behaviour from United Nations peacekeepers is unacceptable. It is important that the momentum from this investigation continues and that when the individuals are identified that the United Nations ensures that China, India, Nepal and Ethiopia discipline their peacekeepers for failing to fulfill their role as a peacekeeper. Actions like these should not be tolerated. Peacekeepers are meant to be a force of stability and should ensure that they are behaving appropriately and fulfilling their duties as blue helmets.
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