South Sudan on verge of fragmenting, UN officials warn Security Council

With senior United Nations officials warning of escalating inter-communal violence and rampant human rights violations in South Sudan, the Security Council today strongly condemned all attacks and provocations against civilians and the UN by armed actors, and called for calm on all sides.

In a statement to the press, the Council condemned in the strongest terms violence committed by elements of the Shilluk and Dinka communities, which erupted in the protection of civilians site in Malakal managed by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), on February 17 and which continued into yesterday, resulting in more than 18 deaths and 50 injuries.

The members of the Council said they were particularly alarmed by credible reports of armed men in Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) un uniforms entering the UNMISS camp and firing on civilians, and the looting and burning of tents.

Strongly condemning all attacks and provocations against civilians and the United Nations by armed actors, including SPLA soldiers the Council reminded all parties, including Government security forces, of the civilian character of the protection of civilian sites in South Sudan.

In its statement, the Council went to call for calm by all sides and to refrain from additional fighting, acts of violence, and further provocations. The 15-member body also called on the Government to swiftly investigate this attack, with the assistance of UNMISS, and bring the perpetrators to justice. It is the responsibility of the Government […] to hold those responsible for the attack accountable emphasized the Council.

The Security Council stressed that attacks against civilians and UN premises may constitute war crimes, and those involved could be potentially subject to sanctions as authorized under its resolution 2206 (2015) for actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of South Sudan.

In a scheduled briefing that preceded the Council’s statement, two senior UN officials urged the body and regional leaders to continue engaging all parties involved in the longstanding conflict to attain a sustainable peace. Moustapha Soumar, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and deputy UNMISS chief reiterated the Mission’s grave concern over the outbreak of violence at the Malakal site and noted that UNMISS uniformed personnel are undertaking robust measures to strengthen physical security within and around the site, while humanitarian partners are working to resume delivery of essential services.

Meanwhile, we are engaged at all levels in the Government, the opposition and the national security forces, as well as within the communities themselves, to address the underlying factors and avoid a resumption of violence Mr. Soumar said.

Violence continues in many regions of the country, including in areas that had previously been relatively calm, he said. Of particular concern is the deteriorating security situation in Western Bahr E1 Ghazal, particularly around Wau, which has also escalated over the past 48 hours.

In response to shifting conflict dynamics, Mr. Soumar said the Mission has adopted a more agile force posture to protect civilians affected by violence. UNMISS is focusing on projecting physical presence away from its bases in Bentiu, Bor, Juba, Malakal and Wau through long-duration patrols and temporary operating bases in areas where insecurity is high.

This includes the establishment of temporary operating bases in Leer as well as in Mundri, which, along with the deployment of an additional company to Yambio, has strengthened the Mission’s presence in western Equatoria.