UN Secretary General Sacks Commander of UNMISS

On November 1st, Ban Ki-moon sacked the commander of the peacekeeping force in South Sudan after an official report showed a failure to protect civilians during violent clashes in Juba from July 8 to 11.

According to the report, the UN peacekeeping force abandoned their posts and failed to respond to pleas for help from aid workers. Lack of preparedness and “inability to operate under a unified command” resulted in conflicting orders to the troops from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India.

As a result, about a dozen aid workers and the UN staff were attacked by the South Sudanese soldiers. At least 73 people were killed. Two peacekeepers also died. A number of civilians were subject to and witnessed murder, intimidation, sexual violence and torture.

Although the allegation that the peacekeepers did nothing when women were raped was not verified, later in September, according to the aforementioned report, a woman was assaulted near the UN compound “in plain sight” of the peacekeepers. Other UN staff had to intervene to stop violations, as the peacekeeping force did not react to her screams. Even after the clashes, the UNMISS “continued to display a risk-averse posture unsuited to protecting civilians” from human rights violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is “alarmed by the serious shortcomings” of the UN mission and has asked for the immediate replacement of the commander Kenyan Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, who has been in charge since May 2016. Identifying those responsible for the security during the clashes and disciplining the troops stationed in South Sudan are to be the next step. The Security Council is planning to discuss the issue this Thursday.

Ban’s spokesperson said that they will start reaching out to member states on the question of more women police officers while emphasizing the example of success in Liberia where the operational unit was all female. It is still unknown when Ondieki would be replaced and by whom.

South Sudan, one of the world’s newest countries, has been at war since December 2013 and began when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Riek Machar of plotting a secret coup. Kiir’s soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group targeted guards from Machar’s ethnic group Nuer and the result was devastating: tens of thousands of people died. Since the fighting first started, over 2.5 million people have been displaced.

Under international pressure, the rivals finally signed another peace deal in May, which also turned out to be very fragile. Riek Machar was again made Vice President until the renewed fighting induced Machar to go into hiding, hindering further international efforts to unify the government and restore peace. Currently, an opposition member Taban Deng Gai takes his place. While the UNMISS has already 16.000 troops deployed in South Sudan since 2011, the situation remains to be problematic.