The Agony of Nuer in UN Bases in South Sudan

By: Deng Mading Gatwech

April 23, 2014 (SSNA) — Right after the out break of fight between the presidential guards, the conflict took ethnic dimension where Nuer became the soft target and the Dinka elements who had never had a chance of cocking a gun practiced on the Nuer on the D-Day. The helpless Nuer paid the price very dearly in Juba of the Central Equatoria state between December 15, 16, 17; it was followed by the Door to Door and House to House search of any Nuer residing in the residential areas of Gudele, Gudele 107, Mangateen, Eden, Cameroon, Khor William, Nyakuron, Rock City and Commercial areas where thousand of Nuer murdered in cold blood. Some of these places are marked as no go zone since mass grave protected by the government force located. In no given time, the killing of Nuer by the force of president Salva Kiir spread like a wild fire all over the three states of Greater Upper Nile Region (Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile) while some states experienced minor incidents of arbitrary killing of Nuer ethnic group. On top of the killing of innocent Nuer Salva Kiir declared curfew that would later on pave ways for the presidential guards to execute Nuer, while embarking on the campaign of failed coup de eta fabricated by him, the president.

The only hope at the end of the tunnel appeared to be United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that would realized the grave human rights abuse by the government of President Salva Kiir Mayardit against the Nuer. All the Nuer irrespective of their backgrounds or allegiance to the government ran to the UN base camps in South Sudan including later on army generals and government officials who appeared to have seen no hope in the rebellion as desperation reached to the peak but turned out to be the government agents. A good example is the killing of about 200 and wounding 300 Nuer in the UN camp in Bor of Jonglei state at the watch of the governor Lt. Gen. John Kong Nyuon. With staggering figure of death toll of less than 20 persons the governor only slightly condemn the killing, and here is what the governor has to say, I quoted, “My government condemned this killing of the innocent people and UN peacekeepers in Bor. It is unacceptable", he stressed.

One could imagine the impact of the agony Nuer in the UN camps across all over South Sudan are going through irrespective of their ages. Governor Lt. Gen. John Kong whose achievements in the SPLA liberation struggle unparalleled, made a cowardice statement on the Bor town massacre without reference to Nuer who lost lives and properties but so naïve to call them “people”. Was it a shame for John Kong to call the deceased Nuer so that he identified himself with? Where does the governor hailed from, may be in Kuacjok of Warrap and up to how long will he live in total denial of his origin, a man whose contribution in the liberation struggle unmatched with that of Salva Kiir Mayardit? Lt. Gen. John Kong should prepare himself for answering the hard facts of the genocide of Nuer in Bor town under his leadership. In the same line of argument ironically, governor of Unity State Joseph Nguen Monytuil decried the alleged killing of 200 army groups and army Nuer who are pro-government by the rebels as pointless but hopelessly branded as civillins. Paradoxically, when the pro-government forces executed ethnic Nuer after the recapture of Bentiu in January 2014, there was no utterance from the governor denouncing the killing of Nuer based on their ethnicity. The acts of the two governors showed their true colors proving that they were not voted in by the Nuer but hand picked by the president.

The hope that was celebrated from the onset of the conflict by all South Sudanese from all walks of life to have taken much control of humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is in total failure from the time camps were organized. United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) as the world body failed with no doubt to protect lives and properties of the vulnerable group particularly the Nuer as the current state of South Sudan remain at stake. From the capital of South Sudan to the other states where Nuer IDPs are stationed, the killing and maiming has never stopped perpetuated by the government and the laxity of UNMISS to response swiftly base on the Chapter VII UN Charter. For the sake of clarity it is of necessity to revisit a little further the mandate of the UN Mission in light of genocide in South Sudan. It would be great also to look at the reaction of US State Department and that of Government of Salva Kiir.

On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the newest country in the world. The birth of the Republic of South Sudan is the culmination of a six-year peace process, which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which ended more than 20 years of war. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) supported the implementation of the CPA during the interim period set up by the Government of Sudan and SPLM when the CPA was signed. The CPA also called for a referendum to take place to determine the status of Southern Sudan. It was held on schedule in January 2011, with the overwhelming majority, 98.83% of participants, voting for independence. The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement of the final results stating that they were reflective of the will of the people of southern Sudan.

Following the end of this interim period, and the subsequent independence of South Sudan in July 2011, the Security Council established a new mission, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with the adoption of resolution 1996 (2011) on July 8, 2011. Having determining that the situation faced by South Sudan continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security in the region and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council by its resolution 1996 (2011) on July 8, 2011established the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year as from July 9, 2011 with the intention to renew for further periods as may be required.

According to the original mandate UNMISS was to support the Government in peace consolidation and thereby fostering longer-term state building and economic development; assist the Government in exercising its responsibilities for conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution and protect civilians; and help the authorities in developing capacity to provide security, establishing the rule of law, and strengthening the security and justice sectors in the country. The initial authorized strength of the Mission stood at up to 7,000 military personnel, including military liaison officers and staff officers, up to 900 civilian police personnel, including as appropriate formed units, and an appropriate civilian component, including technical human rights investigation expertise.

Following the political and security crisis, which broke out with violence in South Sudan’s capital Juba on 15 December 2013, the Security Council, by its resolution 2132 (2013) of 24 December, approved Secretary-General’s recommendation to temporarily increase the overall troop and police strength of UNMISS. The interim troop level was raised to 12,500 personnel and the police component to 1,323 personnel, including appropriate formed police units, through temporary transfers from existing peacekeeping operations through inter-mission cooperation.

In March 2014, the Secretary-General further recommend that the Security Council should keep these increased troops and police levels for at least another 12 months, and temporarily shift Mission’s focus from mainly peace-building activities to: protecting civilians; facilitating humanitarian assistance; monitoring and reporting on human rights; preventing further inter-communal violence; and supporting the IGAD process as and when requested, and within available capabilities. The protection priority would be for displaced people sheltering in United Nations compounds and other locations, and would expand once conditions were created for their safe return home, he said, adding that the new posture of UNMISS would be in place until the two sides to the conflict finalized a political agreement.

The upgrading of the UNMISS mandates in the Republic of South Sudan culminated as the nascent state plunged into deep abyss when it failed to resolved the political differences through negotiated settlements rather opted for violence that engulf the helpless civilian population. In light of this, the UNMISS increased its military contingent from 7, 000 to 12,500 personnel and police units of 1,323 personnel to deter any body that would temper with the lives and the properties of the internally displaced persons throughout South Sudan. However, UNMISS became another failed world body to protect lives and properties from the onset of the conflict like the failed state of South Sudan that scholars determined before the independence of South Sudan in 2011, which the then minister of Information and Broadcasting, Hon. Barnaba Marial Benjamin flatly denied by saying it would be the government of the Republic of Sudan that would be considered failed state. The minister reiterated that the government of South Sudan is (would be) viable state even when it’s collapsing at this stage; Barnaba is a man that does not fear hard lies, which in Nuer culture a “TABOO” but with Dinka culture its normal since the man was nurtured as Dinka and knew nothing of Nuer traditions.

The UNMISS protection of the Nuer in all the camps in the Republic of South Sudan can be considered as one of the fake business ever. Since the conflict erupted, Nuer are the soft target in the UNMISS camps starting from Juba UN camp where UN base has been under attack several times and many Nuer died as a result. The shocking news is the recent UN base attack on April 17, 2014 in Jonglei’s Bor by SPLA force where credible source put the death toll at 168 persons (children, women and elderly) and wounding 273 persons; a number UN estimated at 30 persons reported to have died when the personnel at the scene have a chance of physical counts of the dead. What is the motive of the UNMISS to downplayed the number of the dead when it is considered as an independent world body? Was it because the government became critical on the UNMISS accusing of backing the rebels? I am wondering when I heard the UN human rights investigators complaining that they have confirmed that hundreds of civilians were killed because of their ethnicity after rebel forces seized a disputed town in South Sudan last week, the United Nations said Monday putting the death toll at 200 and 400 wounded at the mosque, mainly Darfurians most of which are member of JEM fighters fighting alongside government of Salva Kiir Mayardit.

In the same tone the UNMISS in South Sudan condemned what it called "the targeted killings of civilians based on their ethnic origins and nationality" in Bentiu, the capital of oil-producing Unity state, on April 15-16. It also condemned the use of Radio Bentiu FM by some individuals "associated with the opposition" to broadcast hate speech, even urging "men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community."

Moreover, the government has condemned the attack on United Nations base in South Sudan Bor town. Michael Makuei Lueth told the press in Juba that an investigating team would be formed to look into the matter, Bakhita Radio reported.  He said what happened was unacceptable and that government and UNMISS would jointly investigate the incident, a statement which he would later on contradict. After having slightly condemned the Bor incident Mr. Michael Makuei, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Spokesperson of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan absurdity grow tall when he stated on Friday, April 19, 2014, that the people killed in the attack on the UN compound in Bor the previous day were ‘rebels’ who committed the ‘intolerable’ act of celebrating the fall of Bentiu, which was captured from government forces last Tuesday. He said that before the youth could enter the compound, peacekeepers started firing into the air only to worsen the situation. If investigation properly carried out Mr. Michael Makuei Lueth would be the first person to be seen and tried in the ICC in Hague.

Without prejudice, the United States unlike UNMISS and government of South Sudan strongly condemns the attack on the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound in Bor today by armed individuals that resulted in dozens of civilian casualties. We reiterate our call upon the Government of South Sudan to end the violence and to fulfill its primary responsibility to maintain law and order and provide full support for the UNMISS mission to protect civilians. The United States also condemns the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the town of Bentiu by anti-government and pro-government forces in violation of the January 23 Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement. The deliberate targeting of civilians during these attacks is unacceptable and those responsible for such acts must be held accountable.

These incidents underscore yet again the urgent need for the Government and opposition forces to immediately stop fighting and cooperate with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM). We look forward to the MVM report on the incident in Bentiu. We call on both sides of the conflict to honor the CoH agreement signed on January 23, end all military actions, halt all attacks directed at civilians, and enter into an inclusive, political dialogue aimed at ensuring peace, justice, security and economic stability for the people of South Sudan.

In conclusion, I am here to urge all South Sudanese at large and Nuer in particular affected to the fullest of all forms of inhuman to remain vigilant and observe the preamble on the universal declaration of human rights; Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace as would be prescribed in manifesto of (SPLA/M) “Armed Resistance” and the would be Transitional Constitution of the Federal Government of South Sudan, Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of Nuer and all peace loving South Sudanese, and the advent of the liberation struggle in which all South Sudanese shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people of the Federal Government of South Sudan, Whereas it is essential, if Nuer is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against Dinka tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law, Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between communities and nations, reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.

Concurrently, in recent years, the Council has adopted the practice of invoking Chapter VII of the Charter when authorizing the deployment of UN peacekeeping operations into volatile post-conflict settings where the State is unable to maintain security and public order where South Sudan is not an exceptional. The Security Council’s invocation of Chapter VII in these situations, in addition to denoting the legal basis for its action, can also be seen as a statement of firm political resolve and a means of reminding the parties to a conflict and the wider UN membership of their obligation to give effect to Security Council decisions. South Sudan has undergone the same fate when conflict erupted and invocation of Chapter VII was in order and participation of Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) was the total invasion by another country. In the same vein, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Security Council adopted resolutions under Chapter VII that only required the aggressor, Iraq, to comply. The complicity of the Security Council in conflict of South Sudan paved ways for UPDF president Yoweri K. Museveni meddling into the affairs of South Sudan but enough should have been said earlier on as a way of putting an end to Uganda hegemony. Therefore, relocation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to either Ethiopia, Kenya and other places deemed safe for the refugees should be the top priority of UNMISS and by and large the US State Department takes the leading role.

Deng Mading is a South Sudanese exiled in East Africa and researcher in the area of “Democracy & Good Governance, Local & International Politics and Strategic Security Studies”. He can be reached at <[email protected]>.

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