POC, a point of ‘friction’ between gov’t, UNMISS

Bintou, Keita, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Photo | UN

An independent review of the UNMISS has found that the Protection of Civilians sites in the country continue to remain a point of ‘friction’ between the government and the peacekeeping mission.

UNMISS was initiated in 2011 as a capacity-building tool but its mandate was changed to protection of civilians after eruption of the conflict in 2013.

There have been calls from the government that the mission’s mandate should be reviewed to focus more on development rather civilian protection.

This, according to the government, is because the security situation across the country has improved and IDPs can return home.

As a result, an integrated team comprising of representatives from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Fields Support was sent to review eight major peacekeeping operations in the country.

This was done between November last year and January this year.

“The protection of civilians sites remain a continued point of friction with the government, which claim that they provide refuge to elements of the armed opposition and is refusing to investigate and prosecute crimes perpetrated on their premises,” said Bintou Keita, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

She told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the government is not cooperating with UNMISS in efforts to improve security at the POCs:

“Some sites have become highly politicized, witness the activities of competing gangs and smuggling of goods, a level of criminality extremely difficult to manage within existing resources and without cooperation from the government.”

In January, UNMISS surrendered two young people living at the POC in Juba to the police, a move that the IDPs were unhappy with.

The IDPs said the individuals, a 15 year-old boy and a 28 year-old man, were handed over after authorities pressurized UNMISS.

There is no easy answer to the “dilemma” of changing the mandate of protecting civilians in South Sudan, added Ms Keita.

She went on to say the most effective way is by reaching a political solution to the conflict.