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Heads of State from East and the Horn of Africa have endorsed a proposal to deploy a rapid protection force to South Sudan, which would later serve under the UN mission (UNMISS) with an enhanced mandate. But this is unlikely to solve the crisis in the world’s newest nation. UNMISS has serious weaknesses and, perhaps more importantly, the South Sudanese conflict is largely economic.

From 7 to 11 of July 2016, Juba, the capital of South Sudan, was put under serious tension and constant bombardment as a result of the fight that erupted once again since December 2013 between the forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former First Vice-President Dr Riek Machar. The renewal of the conflict has been met with a lot of condemnation, particularly at the international spheres. This led to an outright proposal of the intervention force by IGAD Heads of State, a view that seems to augur well with many other international diplomatic organisations, particularly the UN.

On the 5 August 2016, the Assembly of the IGAD Heads of State held its Second Extra-Ordinary Summit meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and deliberated on the prevailing situation in the Republic of South Sudan. In their resolution, the IGAD Heads of State endorsed the outcome of the meeting of the East African Chiefs of Defense Staff held on 29 July 2016, in Addis Ababa, on the deployment of a Regional Protection Force (RPF) as the basis for further and urgent discussion with the United Nations towards reaching a common ground on speedy deployment of the Force under UNMISS. In their Communique, the IGAD Heads of State further called upon the UNSC to expedite the process of extending UNMISS mandate including the deployment of the Regional Protection Force with distinct responsibilities. And since the IGAD Heads of State have given this hint, it will be much easier for the eagerly awaited United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to extend the UNMISS mandate, that will include the RPF.

However, one pertinent question remains as to whether the suggested RPF plus the existing UN peacekeepers will be effective in bringing the desperately needed stability in the country. First of all, like so many other UN missions, UNMISS has been and is still a highly dysfunctional and a “mafia” mission characterized by so many incompetent international personnel, and many of whom bear “low moral standing” - basically living in debauchery and corrupt to the core.

Secondly, when it comes to protection of civilians, UNMISS has not lived up to its recent mandate - “protection of civilians”. Since 2013, UNMISS has demonstrated its incapability in so many occasions to protect civilians, for example in Bor, Malakal and even in Yambio, where hundreds upon hundreds of vulnerable civilians were left stranded at the mission’s gates.

In addition, UNMISS has from time to time failed to protect its national staff members who are deplorably discriminated and disenfranchised, particularly when one closely looks at the UNMISS operational or systemic policies. It beats conscientious reasoning as to why such a dilapidated organization would be charged with even a bigger and a more challenging task.

Thirdly, the whole of the Eastern and Horn of Africa region is in one way or the other troubled by the insecurities of tribalism and corruption, and that means the RPF to South Sudan will carry all of these inadequacies with them. This, coupled with the already existing enormous systemic challenges of UNMISS and the dynamics and complexities of the South Sudanese conflict, will definitely leave a lot of doubts on the effectiveness and the successes that the forthcoming UNMISS mandate will make  as far as bringing peace to the war ravaged South Sudan is concerned.

The South Sudanese conflict is economically and institutionally driven; therefore, instead of sending in more troops to Juba, more focus in terms of resources and energy should be directed towards the economic and resilience building in vulnerable communities of South Sudan.  As echoed in the Preamble of the UN Charter that, “We the peoples of the United Nations are determined to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples”, one would suggest that UNMISS in terms of manpower and operations should be scaled down and more resources should be channeled to the UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations with clear and well-articulated guidelines in line with South Sudan Development Plan on the areas of economic and social enhancement in which the funding should be used.

The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) provides a good platform on how to revive the dwindling South Sudanese economy. There is a need to deliver on the Special Fund for Reconstruction (SRF) pledged by the international partners and friends of South Sudan and to be administered by Board of Special Reconstruction Fund (BSRF). South Sudan needs a vibrant economy with well-structured and functioning transitional institutions and mechanisms, instead of a huge, but redundant peacekeeping force.

Agook Mayek Riak is a former Political Affiars Officer, UNMISS.



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Comments (1)

  • globalmentalhealth's picture

    I support the views of the writer concerning the deployment of the Regional Protection Force and continuation of the UNMISS mission which clearly has not served the function of protecting civilians as demonstrated not only by the massacre in Malakal but also the numerous reports of sexual violence witnessed by the military forces in the peacekeeping mission. Continuing to support this and other peacekeeping missions detracts from the economic and social support that can be utilized for the reconstruction of social and community structures that will serve to facilitate the return and reintegration of those displaced by the current crisis. From my experience with the peacekeeping mission, the UNMISS Mission was established to continue serving the interests of a large number of highly dysfunctional and incompetent international personnel as evidenced by the continued violence and lack of stability in South Sudan. The IGAD decision to send additional troops will only serve to compound the situation as clearly the violence is both political and structural and cannot be resolved by military intervention. Further it suggests that there are no viable options in terms of dialogue and mediation. Initiatives in terms of economic and social support will only work if efforts to address injustices and provide opportunities for healing from the transgenerational trauma are pursued in order to stop the cycle of violence. The current leadership in South Sudan have grown up in a culture of violence and they seem intent on continuing on this path despite the injustices and atrocities that the civilian population have endured over the last two years. It is time they were held accountable for the continued human rights violations and oppression of its citizens. The Regional Protection Force will only serve as additional protection to a peacekeeping mission that is unable to fulfill its mandate and not for the millions of South Sudan citizens who have been forcible displaced and struggling to survive another humanitarian crisis. It is extremely difficult to reconcile the harsh realities of this situation and the continued presence of UNMISS in South Sudan.

    Aug 14, 2016