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After 51 UN Personnel Murdered in 2015, Call for Panel, Citing Louis Maxwell

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- What does today's UN do to protect its staff? Inner City Press has recently been informed by staff and reported that local employees of the UN Peacekeeping mission in South Sudan are no longer told of dangers to them in Situation Reports (see below0). Now it is reported that 51 UN personnel were deliberated killed in 2015, including:

"Among those killed were 27 peacekeepers, including two police officers, and 24 civilians, including contractors, in deliberate attacks using improvised explosive devices, rocket and artillery fire, mortar rounds, landmines, grenades, suicide attacks, targeted assassinations and armed ambushes. Not included in the total are friendly-fire incidents. For the second year in a row, the greatest loss of life had been recorded in Mali where at least 25 personnel, including 11 peacekeepers and 14 civilians and associated personnel, were killed... For the second year in a row, South Sudan topped the list of countries where the highest number of staff had been either detained or abducted or disappeared, four of whom (one staff member from 2014) have now been presumed no longer alive...

There is a call for a high level panel, citing the case of Louis Maxwell in Afghanistan: murdered and cover-up here.

In the UN's continued withholding of news and answers about South Sudan, the reports of the UN's own knowledge of abuses are now being withheld from its own impacted national staff.  So Inner City Press is publishing this, from earlier today January 21, inside UNMISS:

"at around 1040 am heavy fighting broke out in Yambio Town, details are unclear at this moment; according to earlier reports the SPLA Commandos at around 0530 am launched an operation against the Arrow Boys arm under the SSLM located in the Birisi area of Yambio township, the group in turn entered Yambio town and launched attack against the SPLA causing citizens to flee in panic.  Once the heavy shooting started a number of civilians around (40) forced their way into the UNMISS camp as vehicles were being processed at the main gate. They have since moved to the ADRA compound.
The Rwanbatt have now taken control of the main entrance and the citizens whom entered the compound have now moved to the adjoining ADRA compound. Alert status “WHITE” has been declared for Yambio town until further notice.
Point of note; the Arrow Boys under the SSLM are currently in peace negotiations with the government."

 Then, this UNMISS update:

"After shooting occurred in the early hours of the morning around 0530 hours; at 0830 hours the SPLA Commandos lunched operations against the Arrow Boys located in the areas of Birisi, Gangura, Yambio stadium, and the general areas of the Power Station and surrounding communities north east of UNMISS compound. A number of locals have taken refuge in the ADRA compound."

 For all the UN bragging it's ADRA doing the sheltering. From further inside UNMISS, from Inner City Press' sources:

"The Commandos attacked the arrow boys with whom they signed the peace agreement early this morning, and they engaged in battle at Uze river, the commandos have proceeded to Birisi, now the arrow boys have broken the bridge keeping the commando stranded in Birisi.  There was some random shooting in town and heading towards Uze again. One prominent civil servant has been shot dead and his driver.  All the youth and communities in Yambio have raised arms in any form to fight.
"The clashes began around 5 o’clock Thursday morning, according to a source. Gunfire has continued on and off until now, sources said. Casualties were reported though there are no concrete figures yet.
"Yambio market is reportedly empty with civilians seeking shelter in their homes or near the United Nations base in the town, a source said. That source said some people are afraid to reach the UN base because shooting has been heard in the area of the base.  The fighting took place mainly on the southern side of the town near the prison, according to sources. That area is near a frontline between the government-controlled Yambio town and Gangura Payam which is held by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement.
"The SSNLM is a militia led by ex-SPLA commanders from Western Equatoria. The SSNLM signed a preliminary peace agreement with the government in November, but the deal has yet to be finalized. Time for war."

So the UN knows this - but what do they say? Inner City Press obtained and on January 21 published this:

"On 19 January 2016 at about 21:22hrs in Juba, an UNMISS integrated patrol team was conducting operations when they were stopped by an SPLA vehicle containing eleven (11) armed soldiers.  The SPLA soldiers cordoned the convoy at gunpoint denying them permission to continue the patrol. After ten minutes of negotiation another three (3) SPLA vehicles arrived at the scene with about 30 armed soldiers. After 30 minutes the SPLA agreed to allow the UN patrol to return to UN House compound in convoy escorted by six (6) SPLA vehicles with about sixty (60) armed SPLA soldiers. During the negotiation SPLA soldiers reportedly advised that UNMISS should stop conducting night patrols without SPLA clearance otherwise there will be a consequences."

 So one side in South Sudan's civil war - in this case, Paul Malong's - orders the UN to stop patrolling at night, so it can do what it will. And the UN says nothing -- even when asked.

 At the January 20 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: On South Sudan, I wanted to ask you to confirm that UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) — yesterday in Juba an UNMISS patrol was stopped by several dozen SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) military people and I've seen a UN document that says that the SPLA told UNMISS to stop conducting night patrols without SPLA clearance; otherwise, there will be consequences.  Given the debate on the protection of civilians, will you confirm that this took place and what is the UN's response to the SPLA's request?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I don't have any confirmation of that.  If we have any details from UNMISS down the line we will share that but, no, I don't.

  Inner City Press said, quite audibly, It's an UNMISS documents, but the UN did not transcribe it.

Back on January 11, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the withheld situation reports, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: South Sudan, we've been back and forth about these situation reports, and I want… one, I wanted to ask you whether you have anything in your binder about fighting near a place called Diabio.  But I also wanted to ask you, I've now heard that the situation reports will no longer be distributed electronically and, more troublingly, that local UN staff are not supposed to be told the contents of the reports.  I'd like you to check that… [cross talk] … given… given…

Spokesman:  I don't know what situation reports you're talking about.  You're obviously… you're getting situation reports that… [cross talk]

Inner City Press:  My overall question…

Spokesman:  Obviously, you know, there are different types of reports.  There are those done by the peacekeeping mission which I give to you.

Inner City Press:  UNDSS (Department of Safety and Security).

Spokesman:  There are others done, like you said, by DSS.  These are the ones you seem to have unlimited access to, which is, I guess, good for you.  The point is DSS is entrusted to keeping our staff safe, and I trust them to share the information they need to share to ensure that all staff, whether national or international, have the information they need to be able to stay safe.

  Even if that were true, what about civilians?

   Inner City Press published an internal UN Situation Report, which of Pibor diplomatically said:

"On 29 December 2015 at about 06:50 hrs, in Pibor (GPAA) sporadic gunfire was heard  at about 600 meters north of the UNMISS Pibor compound. At about 10:43 hrs, about 15-20 armed SPLA soldiers positioned themselves outside the UNMISS Pibor perimeter on the Northern side of the old PoC. No hostile actions have been reported at this time. INDBATT Protection Force is monitoring and on high alert. All staff members have been accounted for and are inside the UN compound."

 (The Sit Rep also recounts the UN Mission's UNexplained confiscation of "homemade alcohol" including from "an SPLA."

Back on December 9, the day after the UN belatedly confirmed ceasefire violations in South Sudan, only after Inner City Press published proof of the UN's knowledge and asked about it, then the UN Peacekeeping mission in the country shifted to either intentionally mis-reporting government actions in Yambio, or showing ineptitude in its response.

   Again receiving leaked UNMISS Situation Reports, Inner City Press found this paragraph:

"On 7 December 2015 around 20:00 hrs, heavy exchange of gunshots occurred in the area of Hai Kuba, Ikpiro in Yambio in Western Equatoria State. The shooting lasted approximately twenty to thirty minutes. Reportedly, the shooting started when the local authorities attempted to arrest three (3) local youths suspects."

But Inner City Press' sources said the arrests were political, of former Yambio Commissioner Angelo Bakote and 3 young men. So on December 9 Inner City Press asked, of protection, transcript here. Back on December 8 Inner City Press asked, video here, transcript here.

For weeks amid fighting in South Sudan, Inner City Press has asked the UN why it refuses to report even what it knows. Even as Inner City Press has obtained, asked about and published emails showing the UN's knowledge of fighting, the UN spokesperson has repeated, Ask UNMISS.

   Inner City Press asked why UN Peacekeeping, led by Herve Ladsous, does not report on fighting of which it is aware, and how “no UN interest is involved” is consistent with the UN's protection of civilians mandate or claims.

   Dujarric wouldn't even attempt an answer to this policy question (which Ladsous refuses, like other Press questions, to answer). Dujarric repeated, as if it were an answer, that he has not seen the email.

  So Inner City Press published it, here:

"From: Enoch Penney Laryea

Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 2015 9:15 AM

To: SANTUR Abdulahi; Simon Agnew [WFP]; Christoffel Du Toit; Safari Djumapili [OCHA]; Ruiz, Domingo (FAOSS); Carlyne Romulus [at UNMAS] Sorin GIFEI [WFP], Shane Yates [UNCHR]; Abdikadir Tulicha; Sylvain Denairies; UNMISS-FHQ-J2;  John McCue (IOM); Gatluak Gatluak [and others at UNICEF], IMF

Subject: FW: Fighting in Busere - Western Bahr El Ghazal State

"Info received indicate that on 01 Dec 2015 at about 05:00 hours (LT) fighting erupted between SPLA and SPLA/IO at FIRKA and BUSERE (20 km South of Wau town). The fighting subsided around 10:00 hours. Military pickups and ambulances were observed transporting casualties along the airport road at high speed towards the military barracks. SPLA soldiers in the town were seen to be on high alert and on stand by mode.

"Comments: Reportedly the SPLA/IO group attacked SPLA at the affected area. When SPLA soldiers were sent to reinforce their colleagues they were also ambushed by the rebels leading to further casualties on the part of SPLA.

"Fighting is still ongoing as of 02 Dec 2015.

"No UN interest is involved at this time."

Again, why doesn't Ladsous' DPKO report this, and how is this “no UN interest is involved at this time” consistent with the UN's protection of civilians mandate or claims? We'll have more on this.

Inner City Press obtained the UN Security Situation Report for November 29, and finds in this internal report, exclusively published here:

"On 28 November 2015 at around 22:45 hrs, in Yambio town near Tourist Hotel along the main road, a UN Agency national staff member was reportedly involved in a traffic accident. UN Security responded to the scene of the incident and found another civilian vehicle turned over with the driver apparently dead inside the vehicle whilst the UN agency staff member sustained visible injuries in his head. The local police on the spot attempted to arrest the UN staff member involved in the accident, however,
after negotiation UN Security transported him to UN clinic for the medical treatment."

 Can you say, impunity?

From September 29, 2015: An internal UN document leaked to Inner City Press, which is exclusively publishing it today, shows the high degree of dysfunction in the country, and in the UN.

UN's South Sudan Report, Sept 2015, Leaked to Inner City Press by Matthew Russell Lee

  Here are some quotes, the full document we have put online here:

Within South Sudan the inextricable link with the Government’s political party SPLM with the SPLA military has exacerbated the crisis and this bond is also a potential stumbling block to finding a peaceful solution in the future. Currently the Government cannot adequately protect its population or institutions and therefore by extension is also unable to provide adequate protection to UN personnel or assets. The fragmentation of the military from the beginning of the crisis, the misuse of national security agencies and the economic status resulting from the collapse of state structure and drop in income, has led to further political instability.

This assessment defines that the UN is not a primary target for direct violence. However, this situation could change if the economic situation declines further, the military armed conflict continues and tensions rise within PoC sites.

Currently there is no mainstreaming of Security within the planning of UN activities/ programmes. Therefore, the policy that defines that security needs to be involved at all levels of management to ensure security is considered/ mainstreamed into all activities or programmes is not applied, specifically in UNMISS.

The high prevalence of alcohol and illicit drug use within the PoC sites has exacerbated violence and criminal behaviour directly impacting upon UN and AFP personnel working or living within or adjacent to the PoC sites. The smuggling of weapons into the PoCs poses a potential Direct Threat to UNMISS and AFP staff.

 Continued accusations by government actors or affiliates that the PoC sites are sanctuary for supporters of the SPLA in Opposition also make the PoC sites a target; this point was actively demonstrated in the attack in the Bor in April 2014 resulting in the death of 55 IDPs within the UNMISS site.

Prior to December 2013, the UN was well regarded by the South Sudanese for its role in the drive towards independence from Sudan, for its humanitarian interventions and for efforts to protect civilians. But the ongoing crisis in South Sudan has also negatively impacted on sentiments and threats directed to UN personnel in the course of their work, for example IDPs insisting that national staff not from their preferred ethnic group are removed from programme activities in POC sites and some Ugandan UNPOL having to wear civilia clothes and be removed from POC duty due to active UPDF military support for the
Government of South Sudan.

In March 2014, a labelling error was discovered whilst transporting containers loaded with duty equipment for the UN Ghanaian peacekeepers in Unity State which brought strained relations to even a lower point. The error was exploited to galvanise hostility towards the UN in favour of the government by falsely presenting the UN as supplying weaponry to the opposition. It took elaborate interventions, investigations
and communications to clear the false impression that this created.

[ICP note: the same type of "labeling" or "clerical" error occure this months with weapons headed to MONUSCO. This is what UN Peacekeeping has become under Herve Ladous, who linked peacekeepers' rapes to "R&R, here.]

On 26 August 2014 under suspicious circumstances a UN contracted helicopter crashed near Bentiu in Unity State, killing three (3) aircrew and injuring one (1) other, underlining the threats involved in working within South Sudan. Investigations into the cause of the crash were inconclusive.

There have been increasing reports of criminal acts occurring within the Protection Of Civilian (POC) sites; also there have been a number of serious assaults against the UN and other humanitarian workers, sometimes involving weapons which
has resulted a few times of hospitalisation of personnel. These incidents have, and continue to affect not only the civilians seeking refuge at UN sites, but also the ‘safety and security’ of individual UNMISS and Agencies Funds and Programmes (AFP)

"In February 2015 there was an alleged sexual assault of a Canadian INGO by a subcontractor for a UN Agency in UNMISS Bentiu team site."

[ICP note: the UN and UNICEF have not addressed this; the head of UN Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous, has linked rapes to R&R.]

As the fighting also continues at a pace within Sudan on two fronts – Darfur and Nuba Mountains (South Kordofan in particular) the impact for the whole border region cannot be ignored. Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) are also carrying out
aerial bombing campaigns in the Nuba Mountains but also extending into South Sudan in November 2014 to hit alleged JEM targets in Raja, Western Bahr el Ghazal which killed 24 people including women and children.

South Sudan lacks an adequate air traffic control system, countrywide. The government took control of the country’s airspace from Sudan in 2011, but to date has not issued any “Notice to Airmen” (NOTAMs.). There are areas, however, that the government has declared a “no fly zone” (i.e. over the Presidential Palace in Juba), suggesting that the government reserve the right to fire upon an aircraft that violates this airspace.

The SPLA-io has reportedly mined the roads to the north of
Bentiu resulting in several incidents of vehicles being destroyed and civilian casualties. This is of particular concern to the UN as these routes are a vital corridor in delivering humanitarian aid.

The existing EU sanctions delivered in July 2014 had little impact on the deescalating of the crisis."

We'll have more on this.


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