Protecting South Sudan’s Peacekeeping Mission from the Regional Actors who Brokered Peace

BY: Lauren Spink, Center for Civilians in Conflict, NOV/01/2018, SSN;

“Accepting Ugandan & Sudanese troops in peace-keeping mission (UNMISS) would be a Mistake.”

After five years of civil war, egregious violence against civilians, and seemingly countless failed ceasefires, politicians are celebrating the latest round of South Sudanese peace and security agreements.

Today, President Museveni of Uganda and President Bashir of Sudan will be in the spotlight at the celebrations in South Sudan’s capitol, Juba. The two leaders played an important role in brokering the revitalized peace agreements and now, they are making a bid for inclusion of their troops within the United Nations peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Accepting Ugandan and Sudanese troops into the ranks of the peacekeeping Mission would be a mistake that would significantly undermine the Mission and expose civilians to harm.

It matters which troops are deployed to a peacekeeping mission. Putting aside the incredibly concerning human rights records of Uganda’s and Sudan’s security forces, their long-time involvement in South Sudan raises two equally important concerns.

In countries like South Sudan where government security forces are a major perpetrator of violence against civilians, peacekeepers are one of the few actors that can offer protection to civilians—but peacekeepers need the will and credibility to do so.

In the eyes of South Sudanese civilians, the impartiality and credibility of Ugandan and Sudanese troops is compromised by their governments’ past support of parties to South Sudan’s war.

Moreover, because of the political alliances of their governments, Ugandan and Sudanese troops would be unlikely to take robust action against the parties to the conflict in order to protect civilians.

Impartiality is one of the core principles on which peacekeeping was founded. It is what distinguishes peacekeeping troops from parties to the conflict and allows peacekeepers to maintain access and consent for their presence from all actors.

It is also crucial to maintaining the trust of the population. When civilians do not trust a peacekeeping mission, they stop interacting and sharing information with the mission, and without vital information coming from engagement with the population, a mission cannot protect itself, protect civilians, or achieve its mandate.

South Sudanese civilians are acutely aware of the politics in their country and region. In displaced person camps where families shelter in makeshift tents without reliable sources of water, people are still well versed in the latest news stories on South Sudan circulated through social media outlets.

Any mention of Uganda or Sudan in these camps will either stir up anger or words of appreciation. That is because when civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013, Uganda and Sudan took sides with president Kiir.

In 2013 as fighting erupted, Ugandan troops entered the capital and fought alongside government security forces of primarily Dinka ethnicity against opposition soldiers from the Nuer ethnic group.

While South Sudan’s civil war is rooted in a political power struggle between the president, Salva Kiir, and rival politicians, violence by the parties to the conflict has largely been committed against the civilian population along ethnic lines.

A recent report funded by the United States Institute of Peace estimated that the conflict has been responsible for 383,000 civilian deaths, including 190,000 people killed in violence.

Uganda has continued to provide support to government troops since the outbreak of the civil war. The Sudanese government, for its part, has been providing weapons and supplies to Riek Machar’s opposition group.

Both Uganda and Sudan have been far from impartial actors in the violence of South Sudan’s civil war.

If Ugandan or Sudanese troops are deployed under the blue helmets of the peacekeeping Mission, regardless of their actions once deployed, their very presence would undermine the Mission in the eyes of many South Sudanese people.

In addition to undermining the credibility of the Mission, there is good reason to believe that Ugandan and Sudanese troops would fail to protect civilians at risk of attack from the forces in South Sudan with whom their governments are aligned.

The success or failure of peacekeeping missions to protect civilians often depends on the willingness of its troops to take rapid and pro-active action when a threat to a civilian population emerges.

Although UNMISS troops are authorized to take immediate action to protect civilians under threat of violence, because the Ugandan and Sudanese governments have political ties to South Sudan’s warring parties, they will likely avoid any robust action by their troops on the ground against their allies or, at least, delay action while they seek guidance from their respective capitals.

Some regional troops from countries with political and economic ties to South Sudan are already deployed to UNMISS. Ethiopian soldiers currently serve in the Mission and, in the past, Kenyans did as well.

However, none of the troop-contributing countries has been so deeply or problematically involved in the conflict as Uganda and Sudan. If the UN needs additional personnel or specific military assets in UNMISS, it should look elsewhere, even if generating troops is not an easy task.

The regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which led the recent peace revitalization process, has endorsed Uganda’s and Sudan’s drive to have their troops included in UNMISS. That is no surprise.

Uganda and Sudan are, after all, two of IGAD’s prominent member states, and they stand to gain financially and politically from participation in the peacekeeping Mission.

IGAD has taken a concerning additional step related to UNMISS: the body has been pushing for a larger role in reviewing and revising UNMISS’s mandate.

Greater consultation with regional actors on the role of peacekeeping missions and peace processes can help ensure that peacekeeping operations are relevant and reflect political realities.

However, granting regional actors too large a role in shaping UNMISS’s mandate will likely lead to a weaker mandate in relation to the protection of civilians.

That is because regional countries are sometimes more concerned with reinforcing state sovereignty and their political influence in neighboring countries than they are with saving civilian lives on foreign soil.

Last week, on October 22, IGAD military leaders met in Khartoum to discuss the mandate of UNMISS and deployment of their troops into its ranks. A Sudanese news outlet reported that the military chiefs established a joint working group on the issue.

Uganda and Sudan seem set to quietly but resolutely push forward their agenda. This bid should draw widespread attention and urgent opposition. It would set a dangerous precedent for UNMISS and other peacekeeping missions that would be difficult to walk back, even if it proves a misstep.

There is cause for hope in South Sudan as politicians converge on Juba to celebrate the latest revitalized peace agreements. But these celebrations may be premature.

Violence between South Sudan’s armed factions has not stopped just because ink was put to paper in Juba. Protection of civilians by an impartial actor like UNMISS is still desperately needed.

As South Sudanese opposition leaders fresh off the battlefield return to the capital to begin implementing the agreements they have signed, tensions between the long-time rivals are more likely than ever to rise and violence flare.

Allowing the deployment of Ugandan and Sudanese troops to UNMISS now would handicap the Mission at a time when it needs to be more prepared than ever to respond robustly to violence against civilians.

END

10 Comments

  1. info@southsudannation says:

    That was a ‘fake’ celebration in Juba, it was for the international community only. Otherwise, every South Sudanese in Juba and that God forsaken nation knows that their suffering isn’t ended. Kiir is insincere about the peace as is Machar, the two must either be deposed or no peace will ever been seen in South Sudan. Editor

  2. Taban Alimasi says:

    In fact, there’s no peace to be kept in South Sudan, these tyrants are in collusion to destroy oppositions to Kiirs’ one man show government and loot South Sudan’s resources. President Bashir has signed oil agreement with Kiir, while Museveni and Kiir are exploring gold in Eastern Equatoria, these oppressors have a mission and no one can stop them. In 2016, UN report indicates, government troop had freely rape and killed innocent civilian at the face of Peacekeepers, South Sudanese had survived by the Mercy of God not Peacekeeper. Citizens should pray that God intervene, otherwise Kiir is there to stay. The current opposition groups who have not signed the agreement are weak, can’t challenge Kiir and his friends. Riek who have the army have no plan for South Sudan but for himself. Since he got back his position of Vic President, he doesn’t care and this is not the first time Riek is causing destruction in South Sudan, Riek had weaken SPLA/M in 1991 and many people lost their life. He went and signed internal agreement with Bashir, when he was not given what he want, he return to Dr John and re-join SPLA/M. Riek has no plan for anybody but himself, however this time he would no escape Juba his kingdom will cease to exist.

  3. Dear: The Author Lauren Spink

    The mistake or misstep,has already been done! The Sudanese Armed Forces,are now in the oils fields in Bentiu in Unity State of the South Sudan guarding the oils fields!It is not a great surprise for me at all! The way I look at the South Sudan Independence,it looks as though the South Sudan Republic has no Independence still on one UNITED SUDAN IN CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IN NORTH IN KHARTOUM of 1956.

  4. Eastern says:

    Folks,

    Now that the forum has heard from OPPORTUNISTS represented by Taban Alimasi (for the Taban Deng, Tabuley Julius, Taban Aguek and all the TABANIIN constituency,….).

    The forum has also heard from Chief Abiko representing the CONFUSISTS (Beek, False Millionaire, etc constituency….).

    The forum needs to hear from the radicle and free thinkers – the group James Wani, the man from Southern Bari, wants to be considered TERRORISTS!

    South Sudan is IMPLEMENTING FEACH….!

    • Taban Alimasi says:

      Eastern,
      You are insane, I think you need a physiatrist otherwise your mental health may worsen.

      • Eastern says:

        Taban Alimasi,

        That’s to be expected of a TABAN and the TABANIIN! Just check some of your supposedly ‘intellectual’ contributions on this forum. Ever heard of cognitive dissonance?!

  5. Dear: Mr.Eastern

    If you supporting the holdout group the enemies of peace Mr.Thomas Cirrillo,Dr.Hakim Dario,and other as well,you will be considered THE TERRORISTS because South Sudanese people are pro peace! Let us give a peace a chance for the benefit of common people.They are the one CARRYING THE CROSS IN MOUNTAIN CALVARY.While Eastern overjoying the blood of Southerners the tax payers! Thank you.Back to you! Confusionist!

    Virtue: Prevent Conflict in People in lives!

    Abiko Akuranyang!

    Kansas City,Missouri-USA

  6. mading says:

    Eastern. What a shame ? Don’t drag a great man, James Wani in your dirty mud. He is one of the greatest heroes and heroines who liberated South Sudan for you. Shame on you EASTERN internet warrior.

  7. John Obalim Nyeri says:

    The peace celebrated recently in Juba is Fake and it will never work WHY? President Kirr, with his groups of Jienge Gangsters are roaming in Equatorial lands causing tremendous corruptions in the towns and every villages in Equatoria.
    Other 63 tribes are suffering as they can’t even open their voices because they are completely voiceless shutdown fear of Jienges ( Dinka ) tribal recruited Militias Terror brutalities on them, by occupying government Security sectors such as :- in Military, Police, Prisons and Air Force then in Finance such as :- Ministry of Finance, Taxation and Immigration in South Sudan.

    Jienge government will continue to destroy South Sudan until they would get kicked by force. Otherwise they would continue their Human Rights Abuses, Corruptions and allow Refugees Flow into neighbouring Countries plus issues of Displace people will never cease until The Terror Government of Salva Kirr is removed.

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