South Sudan Violence Impacts Civilians

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UNMISS personnel conducting a security sweep in its Juba camp to rid it of weapons and smuggled goods, including military and police uniforms. Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Bill
UNMISS personnel conducting a security sweep in its Juba camp to rid it of weapons and smuggled goods, including military and police uniforms. Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Bill

UNMISS personnel conducting a security sweep in its Juba camp to rid it of weapons and smuggled goods, including military and police uniforms. Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Bill
UNMISS personnel conducting a security sweep in its Juba camp to rid it of weapons and smuggled goods, including military and police uniforms. Photo: UNMISS/Isaac Bill

Refugee Camps Becoming Dangerous in South Sudan

GENEVA – International News – South Sudan has seen increased violence from both the government and rebel forces. Protecting refugees has become increasingly difficult for United Nations Peacekeepers. The UNMISS in South Sudan has increased security measures in refugee camps in an ongoing effort to ensure greater safety.

Ivan Simonovic who is with the United Nations as a Human Rights ‘fact finder states that Bor and Bentiu two of the towns where the heaviest fighting has been happening are now virtually “ghost towns”. The two towns have changed hands several times as the Government forces and rebel forces continue to battle for control.

This is putting heavy pressure in United Nations personnel.

The growing numbers of refugees are also impacting safety in the camps set up to house and care for refugees. “Another 63 additional UN police personnel arrived yesterday, bringing the total number of UNPOL reinforcements to 315,” according to figures from the UNMISS.

Joint police and military patrols and the use of metal detectors are among the security steps being taken by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to protect some 65,000 displaced civilians seeking refuge on its bases and in the surrounding community.

“An array of security measures have been put in place,” the Mission has confirmed. UN Police Commissioner Fred Yiga is meeting regularly with South Sudan’s Police Inspector General, and with the Central Equatoria Police Commissioner, to address security concerns.

Weapon searches are being undertaken at all the main bases, which include the capital Juba, Bor in Jonglei state, Bentiu in Unity state, and Malakal in Upper Nile state.

UN Police (UNPOL) supported by UNMISS military forces are heading the searches, which include ‘combing’ the areas with metal detectors. UNPOL and military are also jointly patrolling inside and in the immediate vicinity of all the sites, with troops guarding the perimeter.

Fencing, berms and ditches have been built, and displaced persons coming in and out are systematically screened and controlled, the Mission said. It is also planning additional security measures to further strengthen the camp perimeters.

An additional group is due to arrive next Friday. They will deploy in Formed Police Units to UNMISS bases in Juba, Malakal and Bentiu.

With that final group on the ground, the additional “more robust and armed police units” authorized by the UN Security Council last month will be completed, the Mission said.

As requested by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Council in December unanimously approved a temporary increase in the strength of the UNMISS of up to 12,500 military and 1,323 police from a current combined strength of some 7,000, through the transfer of units if necessary from other UN forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Darfur, Abyei, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

The congestion of the sites also poses a challenge to the safety of civilians, UNMISS said. As of yesterday, it has moved hundreds of newly arrived displaced persons from the UN Tomping compound to the protection site at UN House where space is still available.

UNMISS reiterated that it is impartial in the ongoing conflict, and in the implementation of its mandate to protect all civilians “irrespective of who they are, where they come from and what their ethnic background is.”

The fighting between anti- and pro-Government forces has continued even as political talks with the parties in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa seek to establish a ceasefire. The talks are being held under the patronage of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD).