Opinion | On The Withdrawal Of The UN From Protection Of Civilians Camps (PoC)

Opinion | By Mabior Garang

Lomong Latabu holds her son Khamis Tuth, a 1.5-year-old child with severe malnutrition, at the malnutrition ward of the clinic run by the International Medical Corps (IMC) in the UN POC site in Juba | Photo: Farran/UNICEF
Lomong Latabu holds her son Khamis Tuth, a 1.5-year-old child with severe malnutrition, at the malnutrition ward of the clinic run by the International Medical Corps (IMC) in the UN POC site in Juba | Photo: Farran/UNICEF

September 10, 2020 (Thessherald)–The recent announcement of UN Forces’ withdrawal from Protection of Civilians camps (PoC camps) is a huge blow to peace and security and the very future of the peace process in South Sudan. For the UN to hand over security to the same organized forces which massacred those currently under their protection, is to condemn them to certain death. It must be remembered that after more than a year and USD 100 Million, security arrangements have not been implemented. This is not a mere allegation but is certifiable through the verification mechanisms of the Agreement and from the regular reports of the UN Panel of Experts.

That there is no peace in South Sudan is not a secret – it is seen in the rampant inter-communal violence in the rural areas and “unknown gunmen” violence in the towns. If the UN withdraws its forces from the PoCs, the regime will immediately move to forcefully dismantle the camps in the name of non-existent peace. The civilians will be forced to return to their destroyed or confiscated homes, only to be met with looming famine and inter-communal wars. The indiscipline and lack of command and control of the organized forces were recently shown by their excesses during the botched disarmament operation in Tonj. Are these the security forces the UN plans to hand protection of civilians to?

The regime in Juba has failed to fulfil its mandate according to Chapter I of the Agreement. The opening provision of the Agreement is an indictment of this regime which goes by the name Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity(R-TGONU). In Chapter 1.1.1., it states; “There shall be established a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) in the Republic of South Sudan entrusted with the task of implementing this Agreement.” It has become painfully obvious, despite the lies coming from the regime, that the so-called R-TGONU is not implementing any Agreement. Even half of Chapter I is yet to be implemented fully.

It has been erroneously reported that the security in the country has improved, yet senior government officials still fear sleeping in Juba – going out to find means of survival by day and opting to return to the safety of the PoC by night. Venturing out of the PoC is even more dangerous for our girls and women, who have been raped by soldiers just outside of the camps. There isn’t a big difference between the current organized forces and those which committed the Juba massacre, documented by the African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan. If in April 2014 a Minister was able to force his way into the PoC in Bor, resulting in the murder of innocent civilians, what would stop the same regime from doing the same or worse once the UN withdraws from the PoC?

Despite the security of the citizens of the Republic of South Sudan being the sole responsibility of their government, the UN must reconsider this move. If the people in the PoC are left to the mercy of their tormentors, the resulting humanitarian crisis might end up being more costly than had the UN forces stayed. The so-called R-TGONU has neither the will nor the capacity to handle the huge responsibility the UN is about to add to their quagmire of an Administration. They have already botched an illegal disarmament in Tonj, failed to respond to natural and man-made disasters in Jong’lei, not to mention their failure to respond to the global pandemic. To hand over so many innocent souls to certain death borders on an abuse of human rights.

The people of South Sudan are eternally grateful to the UN for the protection they provided at the height of the Juba massacre and the resulting cycle of revenge killings in 2013 and in 2016. For this reason, the role played by the UN will not be forgotten by the vulnerable citizens of our nascent Republic. Equally historic is the failure of leadership which has led to this; it will be remembered for generations to come. The UN should not abandon the people of South Sudan at the last minute. Instead of building the capacity of the forces which killed them, the UN should build the people’s capacity in terms of civic education.

In the event that the UN’s withdrawal is fully realized in the coming weeks, our people must know that we will be on our own. Therefore, it is important for our people in the UN PoC camps to organize themselves and through peaceful means make their voices heard regarding this mischief. It is a non-starter. It is by our peoples organizing themselves in the PoC and across the country that we can give the regime an incentive to implement the Agreement. The least costly way we can end the refugee crisis, the internal displacement and the rampant insecurity in the country is through the genuine implementation of the Agreement.

In Kenya and Uganda the United Nations humanitarian work is under their respective Ministries of Interior – this is understandable in stable countries. This cannot be the same in South Sudan where the very security forces which displaced civilians will again be in charge of their security, it is a contradiction. The best and least costly way for the UN to get themselves out of this mess is not to abandon the people of South Sudan, it may prove more costly in the end. It is best to try the only thing left to try in this peace process, punitive measures for peace spoiler.

The author is a former Deputy Interior Minister and senior member of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In -Opposition (SPLM-IO)


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