UN Expresses Discontent with States Withdrawing Troops from South Sudan

The UN has expressed concern after Britain withdrew two police officers while Germany and Sweden withdrew seven and three police officers respectively, according to a UN memo. It also said the United States was reportedly planning to withdraw nine police and that Norway was planning to repatriate one police officer on medical grounds. The European nations evacuated their citizens serving as UN police officers in Juba, South Sudan from the mission known as UNMISS after a recent revival in fighting between government forces and fighters loyal to ex-rebel leader and now Vice President Riek Machar. Britain, Germany and Sweden announced their action “without prior consultation”.

“The departure of the police officers has affected the operational capability of the mission at headquarters level and has dealt a serious blow to the morale of its peacekeepers,” said the memo informing the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. A spokesperson for the British mission to the United Nations confirmed that two British police officers were evacuated from Juba on July 13, and said a UN police advisor was informed of the decision. “We judged their temporary removal was necessary for the officers’ safety. Their well-being is our chief concern,” said the spokesperson.

The nation has continuously witnessed days of heavy conflict since July that has left about 500 dead and hindered efforts to implement a peace deal from last year. Criticising Britain’s actions as a Security Council member, the memo stated, “For some TCCs (troop-contributing country) who are council members and have the responsibility to ensure peace and security globally, this can be considered as a lack of respect to their engagement on peace and security.” The memo also applauded the continuous involvement of hundreds of UN civilian staff, UN volunteers, and non-governmental organisations who “remain in Juba, carrying out their duties to the extent possible under extremely challenging circumstances.” There are about 1,200 police serving in UNMISS alongside 13,500 peacekeepers. The troops in UNMISS are placed to ensure the safety of civilians in South Sudan.

The United States has also withdrew all of its nonessential diplomatic staff from South Sudan as the planet’s youngest country continued to face the prospects of a full blown civil war. “It’s an ordered departure adjusting the footprint in response to the situation,” said spokesman John Kirby.

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but the world’s youngest nation has been marred by years of civil war. The nation’s fifth anniversary was overshadowed by the conflict that reported more than 500 deaths in fighting between forces aligned with President Salva Kiir and rival Vice President Riek Machar. Two United Nations peacekeepers from China, and one South Sudanese UN worker were reported among the dead. The nation witnessed a civil war in December 2013, before a peace deal last year that brought former rebel group leader Machar back to Juba. Tensions between the rival parties are a result of ethnic tensions between the Dinka group supporting Kiir and the Nuer backing Machar.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Yet again, the leaders of South Sudan have failed their people. Rarely has a country’s conduct squandered so much promise so quickly.” Mr Ban called for an “immediate” arms embargo, and that political and military leaders blocking the peace deal be sanctioned. He also called for military equipment “to fulfil our mandate to protect civilians” and called for nations “stand their ground” rather than withdraw their personals in the face of the violence.

Read more about the conflict here

Nishtha Sharma