South Sudan: UN peacekeepers must now step up to protect civilians

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UN peacekeepers must redress serious failings and improve the protection of civilians in South Sudan from killing and rape by armed forces and other groups, said Amnesty International, following the sacking of the UN force commander in South Sudan. The organization is calling on the UN to release the full findings of the independent special investigation into abuses.
 
Field research conducted by Amnesty International in July, August and September 2016 revealed serious failings in the conduct of UN peacekeeping forces and exposed evidence that UN forces put civilians at risk by their actions as well as their inaction.
 
“Change at the top of the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has to be matched by fast and drastic change amongst its 16,000 peacekeepers – it’s time they implemented their mandate to protect civilians from killing and rape,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
 
“The UN mission must ensure the effective protection of civilians, particularly those who have sought refuge in UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protection of civilian sites. It should expand the frequency of foot and motorised patrols and provide escorts to people who need to leave the sites, especially for essential purposes such as going to the market to buy food.”
 
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has asked for the replacement of the force commander, Lt Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, following the UN’s independent special investigation. It found that peacekeepers failed to respond when government soldiers attacked a compound housing international humanitarian workers in Juba in July.
 
Amnesty International’s research, published last month, shows that the UN’s response to the July attack on the Terrain camp was part of a dangerous pattern of inaction. In just one of the attacks documented by Amnesty International, a 24-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by five government soldiers just in front of the UN base in the Jebel neighbourhood in Juba said that UN peacekeepers and private security guards could see the attack but did not come to her aid.
 
In another incident, UN police shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of frightened Nuer civilians at the UN base in the same neighbourhood.