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On S. Sudan, ICP Asks UN If Fijians Will Leave, Of Split by Gadet & Gatkuoth

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 11 -- With yet another deadline for peace in South Sudan approaching, Inner City Press on August 11 asked UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric of reports some UN Peacekeepers might leave, and of splitting in the rebel or Opposition side, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: On South Sudan, there are two things.  One is, there's a report that Fiji is considering pulling its peacekeepers out due to the unraveling in the country, and there's also these two generals or one of whom was sanctioned, Peter Gadet and Mr. [Gathoth] Gatkuoth, who have broken away from the Riek Machar forces now and say that, even if peace is reached, they will continue to fight.  So what isÖ what isÖ does the UN have any response to that?  Does this make things more difficult to solve andÖhow would the Fijians be replaced?

Spokesman Dujarric:  The Fijians, I don't know.  I can check.  I think on the unraveling of the opposition, it's clear that every day that goes by without a political agreement makes the situation that much more complicated to solve.  The Secretary-General, as he said, very much hopes that a deal will be reached later this month through the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] process, but this continued fighting, the continued lawlessness makes it that much more difficult to reach a deal, but we very much hope that, once a deal is reached, that all the parties involved will live up to their obligations.

   The UN speaks a lot about how it has opened its camps in South Sudan to protect civilians. But recently when Inner City Press asked about the UN refusing to allow civilians fleeing fighting from entering its Yambio camp, the UN first said it didn't know, then tried to explain the refusal away, see below. Now, after more Inner City Prss question, there is a longer UN answer. Video here.

  On August 6, after Inner City Press asked again about the seeming double standard in Yambio -- national staff staying in the camp for safety while civilians except it seems for hotel guests kept out -- Dujarric was handed this:

UN Spokesman Dujarric: "UNMISS tells us that after assessing the security situation and engaging with state authorities, no civilians were admitted to the protection into its base in Yambio. UNMISSís Open Gate policy is implemented as a last resort when the mission believes that civilians are under imminent threat. The mission has increased patrols in Yambio town and its surroundings in an attempt to restore a sense of safety and security and provide a reassuring presence. My understanding is that no one from the hotels were let in. And I do know, you mention national staff, national staff have IDs. If they need to stay in the camp and sleep in their offices, thatís fine.
 
Inner City Press: But wouldnít you say thatís kind of inconsistent?

UN Spokesman Dujarric: No, itís not. I think, UNMISS has done a tremendous job, and thatís probably not even a good enough word, in opening its camps to more than 100,000 people. As we all know, these peacekeeping camps were not designed to house this number of people. The idea to open up the gates was really a last resort, if people are under imminent  threat. Itís a hard call, that a mission obviously has to do. They made the call in this particular incident. Obviously if national staff feel, Iím not aware that national staff were told they had to stay in the camp. If national staff feel they would rather stay in their offices, no one would kick them out. No one would kick me out of my office if I donít want to go home...
 
Inner City Press: Some people see this incident as either a shift in policy by the UN, or an over deference to the government.

UN Spokesman Dujarric: I donít think thereís been a change in policy. As weíve reported in the last month or so here, thereís often an increase, an uptick, in the number of civilians that are allowed into camps. So I donít think thereís a change in the policy. The Open Gate policy is a last resort. Decision was made in this particular case, but itís been absolutely no change in policy. On the press issue, I think as I said our colleagues at UNMISS are very much concerned over the recent closure of media outlets in South Sudan, and they reiterate that a free, diverse, and independent media is one of the cornerstones of an independent society.

 Back on August 5, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Dujarric:

Inner City Press: on Yambio in South Sudan, in a follow-up question to yesterday, Farhan gave an answer that seemed to acknowledge that civilians were not allowed in the camp but saying things had calmed down now.  What I want to ask is Iíve since heard two things, one that hotels in Yambio were closed during this fighting which people are basically saying was a retaliatory attack by Government forces on civilians and that the UN did take in hotel residents into the camp.  And Iím also told that national staff didnít go home and stayed within the camp.  So I wanted to know, maybe you will need to ask them, but how is this consistent, if itís safe enough for civilians not to be let in the camp, why did the UN keep its national staff inside the camp and allow in generally more affluent people from visiting Yambio into the camp but not those who live there?

Spokesman:  I donít know, Matthew.  We can check with the mission.

  Eight hours later, there was no answer. But when asked again at noon on August 6, Dujarric read-out the above..

 Back on August 3, Inner City Press first asked UN spokesman Dujarric, video here:

Inner City Press: there are these reports of UNMISS in South Sudan, the Yambio base, turning away civilians seeking protection inside the base from fighting between the Government and rebels, and it seems to be true, because UNMISS is quoted as saying that, pursuant to their mandate, they informed the Government that itís theirÖ itís their duty to protect people.

Spokesman Dujarric:  IÖ IÖ Iím happyÖ Iím happy to check.  What I do know is that the UN mission in South Sudan is currently protecting more than 100,000 civilians, but I will check on this particular case.

Inner City Press:  Yeah.  And if you can... explain why they turn them away.

Spokesman Dujarric:  Have a wonderful time.  Weíll see you at 1.

On August 4, Dujarric's deputy Farhan Haq returned with this:

"We were asked yesterday about the situation in Yambio, South Sudan. The UN Mission there (UNMISS) says that the security situation has improved and that the majority of the civilians have returned home. As you know, opening UNMISS compounds to civilians is and will remain a last resort measure.

"Right now, the Mission is protecting civilians by various means to create security conditions for a safer environment.  These include engaging with local authorities and conducting patrols.  UNMISS has increased patrols in an attempt to restore a sense of safety and security in Yambio by patrolling day and night and providing a reassuring presence."

  Apparently this circumlocution is how the UN acknowledges that it did not allow civilians fleeing fighting from entering its camp.

   This comes as the UN has proved unable or unwilling to provide any accountability for, much less protect, an aid worker in its Bentiu camp was was allegedly raped by an employee of UNICEF contractor Life for Construction, click here for that.

Back on July 1, UN Secretary General issued a statement condemning an attack on the UN's Protection of Civilians site in Malakal, specifically asking for an investigation from Riek Machar and Johnson Olony.

  But on July 8, after UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous briefed the Security Council behind closed doors about South Sudan, and Inner City Press asked him about Malakal when he came out of the Council, Ladsous refused to answer. Periscope video here for now. (He also refused to answer if the Central African Republic sexual abuse investigation panel has spoken with him yet.)

 So when the Security Council's president for July Gerard van Bohemen of New Zealand came to the stakeout, Inner City Press asked him if Malakal and how the UN can better protect civilians was discussed. He answered that this was not discussed in the consultation; neither was Riek Machar's public comments that fighting will continue as long as Salva Kiir, whose term expires on July 8, remains in power. Periscope video here, for now.

Inner City Press Q: On South Sudan, as to UNMIS, was there a discussion of the incident in Malakal where an IDP was killed? And, Riek Machar has said heíll keep fighting as long as Salva Kiir stays in power, and that Salva Kiir's term expires today, July 8. Did this come up?
 
A: Neither of those specific situations have been discussed today.
 
  How could neither of this -- the Machar comments and especially the killing at Malakal and how the UN could do better -- have been raised by or to Ladsous? We'll be seeking more on this - and on the CAR sexual abuse panel. Watch this site.

 Of the UNSC sancctions, one of those now sanctioned, without a listed passport, is Peter Gadet, regarding whom Inner City Press has previously asked the US State Department, here. The individual WITH the passport is Marial Chanuong Yol Mangok, Passport no.: R00005943, South Sudan. Here's the full list, from US Ambassador Samantha Power's July 1 statement:

"Today, the Security Council took strong action in support of a peaceful end to the conflict in South Sudan by sanctioning six South Sudanese individuals for fueling the ongoing conflict and contributing to the devastating humanitarian crisis in their country.
 
Major-General Marial Chanuong Yol Mangok; Lieutenant-General Gabriel Jok Riak;  Major-General Santino Deng Wol; Major-General Simon Gatwech Dual; Major-General James Koang Chuol; and Major-General Peter Gadet will now be subject to a global travel ban and asset freeze for their contributions to a conflict that has  left more than 6.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and forced more than 2 million from their homes."

  Back on May 20, six days after the UN's envoy to South Sudan Ellen Loj spoke to the Security Council and to the Press at the Council stakeout on May 14, on the evening of May 20 the US State Department issued a statement about violence in South Sudan:

"The United States condemns the intensified fighting and violence in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states in South Sudan by the Sudan Peopleís Liberation Army, the armed opposition, and forces led by General Johnson Olony that have led to massive new developments and had a devastating effect on civilians.  We call on all armed groups to immediately halt offensive actions taken in contravention of the January 2014 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

Violations of international humanitarian norms, including the outright targeting of civilians already vulnerable to greater harm, especially women and children, and grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all sides are unacceptable.  The international community will hold those who perpetrate such abuses and violations to account.  We call on all sides to silence the guns immediately, permit the UN Mission in South Sudan to investigate the sites of all alleged human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, and allow all humanitarian workers immediate, free and unobstructed access to conflicted-affected communities regardless of their locations.

The human, social, and economic costs of this war have been devastating and the long-suffering people of South Sudan will also bear the brunt of the potential long-term consequences of this escalating fighting.  Any damage to South Sudanís oil infrastructure is an additional life-long wound to the people and jeopardizes South Sudanís development and rebuilding.  These resources belong to all South Sudanese people and the needs of the nation should be prioritized over the violent intentions of a few.

We will continue to work for a better future for all South Sudanese citizens and condemn those that intentionally jeopardize their collective future."

    Inner City Press on May 15 asked Loj about the UN Mission in South Sudan base in Bentiu, and more generally about proposals to lift UN immunity, called Code Blue, in the wake of the alleged rape of children in Central African Republic by French "peacekeepers" in the Sangaris force, allegedly covered up by French UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous.   (While the Security Council, on which France has one of five permanent veto-wielding seats, has taken no action on this issue, the General Assembly's Fifth (Budget) Committee has summoned Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff to a close door meeting, as Inner City Press first reported.)

  The Council's statement mentions for example the UNMISS camp at Bentiu, but none of the issues raised to and by Loj at her May 14 stakeout and May 15 press conference. Video here.

  Loj acknowledged that the new Bentiu camp she had referred to the day prior was not yet ready, and that SPLA intelligence are sometimes in front of the existing camp. She again noted camp residents, not only in Bentiu but also in Juba, cutting the wires of the fence. Afterward, her and one of Ladsous' spokespeople said that journalists are free to visit the Bentui camp (although Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access have heard differently; we hope to have more on this.)

  Here is the Security Council's May 17 press statement:

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Raimonda Murmokaitť (Lithuania):

On 14 May, the members of the Security Council were briefed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ellen Margrethe LÝj on the situation in South Sudan.

The members of the Security Council expressed condemnation at the renewed and ongoing large-scale violence in Unity State caused by the recent Government of South Sudan offensive and resulting in the displacement of more than 100,000 civilians and the suspension of nearly all activity and delivery of aid to populations in the affected areas, over 300,000 civilians, by humanitarian agencies and organizations.  The members of the Security Council further expressed their condemnation of the large-scale attack initiated on 15 May by the SPLM/A (in Opposition) on the town of Malakal, in Upper Nile State. 

The members of the Security Council underlined their grave concern that as a result of violence and increased insecurity since the beginning of the conflict, more than 50,000 internally displaced persons have sought shelter and assistance at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) camp in Bentiu, and an additional nearly 25,000 at the UNMISS camp in Malakal, only further magnifying a dire humanitarian crisis.

The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the repeated violations of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement accepted and signed by the Republic of South Sudan and the SPLM/A (in Opposition) on 23 January 2014, and underscored that there is no military solution to this conflict that has now lasted more than 17 months.  

The members of the Security Council called upon all parties to engage meaningfully in the peace process so as to bring about a political solution to the crisis and an end to the conflict.  They acknowledged the IGAD-led peace process and urged renewed regional and international efforts to swiftly implement a common plan and to table a reasonable and comprehensive solution to end the crisis in South Sudan.  In this context, they reiterated their willingness to impose sanctions against those who threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan as established in resolution 2206 (2015), and noted the 24 March 2015 African Union Peace and Security Council Communiquť on South Sudan and the 12 May 2015 African Union Commission Chairpersonís Statement on South Sudan in this regard.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their full support for UNMISS peacekeepers and for the vital mandate they are performing under very difficult conditions, including to protect civilians in South Sudan.  They demanded that all parties end intimidation and harassment against UNMISS and humanitarian personnel, cease ongoing restrictions on freedom of movement, and allow UNMISS to fully implement its mandate.  They further demanded full adherence to the Status of Forces Agreement and permission for the deployment of essential assets and enablers currently being blocked by the Government of South Sudan.  The members of the Security Council underscored the importance of close cooperation and communication between UNMISS and the Government in addressing these issues.

The members of the Security Council condemned, and reiterated their demand for an immediate end to, all human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.  They reiterated that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights must be held accountable and that the Government of South Sudan bears the primary responsibility to protect civilians within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, including from potential crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Security Council renewed its calls for the parties to the conflict to allow and facilitate the full, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel, equipment and supplies to all those in need and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance in accordance with relevant provisions of international law and United Nations guiding principles of humanitarian assistance.

 Loj said that as a former diplomat she did not favor any blanket lifting of immunity. She said she has taken sexual abuse seriously, then said she is strict about curfew. One was left wondering how the UN will reform itself, if it ever will.  Let's see how you write this up, Loj genially said. Well here it is.

May 14 Video here.

 Loosely transcribed by Inner City Press (video here), Loj replied on May 14

"Let me say what UNMIS has undertaken in collaboration with IOM [the International Organization for Migration]. Primarily the project is primarily financed by the Dutch government. Itís actually a new site for the camp, on higher ground and with better drainage, because the Bentiu camp was totally flooded during the last rainy season. That work is being undertaken as of this week. We are hoping to get it finishedÖ
 
As far as the fence, the problem with the fence is not that UNMIS is not putting up the fence. Itís that even if the fence were there, the problem with the fence is that the IDPs themselves cross the fence  in order to sneak out...
 
Yes, we have had troubles with the SPLA,  right outside the gates, and we have tried to solve it...We are doing our utmost to ensure that nobody enters the camp with weapons. We are doing regular searches in all camps Ö for alcohol and illegal substancesÖ"

  She then said that UNMISS installed lights, but people break them. There was more to ask, including from great reporters on the bround. Inner City Press asked for another question but was told no, to ask on May 15. Watch this site.

After the May 14 stakeout, Loj told a story about UN staff in Liberia telling her all about Inner City Press, which after time she associated with her time on the UN Security Council. She has seen the UN from that position and now two countries.


 

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