Given the unstable security situation in South Sudan following clashes between Government and opposition forces which left some 272 people, including 33 civilians, dead, the United Nations peacekeeping chief has proposed that the UN Mission there be extended until the end of August to allow a rapid assessment on the need for a stronger mandate.
“The current situation in the country remains fluid and uncertain,” said Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous in his briefing to the Security Council on the activities of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), whose mandate will expire on 31 July.
“The Secretary-General’s recommendation for a technical roll-over of the UNMISS mandate remains valid and necessary, while we conduct an assessment of the requirements to address the situation on the ground,” he said, adding that the temporary arrangement should be for one month to give the Secretariat time to do a quick assessment, consult the region and the African Union and make recommendations to the Council.
He said that if the Mission needs to be reinforced, including through additional troops and more robust capabilities such as attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to fulfil a “protection of civilians” mandate, it will be imperative that these reinforcements implement the same mandate as all other troops, and answer to the same chain of command.
Today’s meeting comes after days of heightened concern at the United Nations in the wake of the deadly clashes that erupted in and around the capital, Juba, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing First Vice-President Riek Machar.
Mr. Ladsous told the Council that as of this morning, humanitarian partners estimated that at least 36,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition.
According to initial Government figures at least 272 people have been killed, including 33 civilians.
“I am convinced, however, that this is only the tip of the iceberg, given alarming reports over the last few days indicating that civilians were barred from safer grounds, including UN compounds,” he said.
Security situation in Juba
A ceasefire declared by Mr. Kiir on the evening of 11 July, and seemingly endorsed by Mr. Machar, appears to be holding in Juba, with the exception of sporadic shooting heard in parts of the city, he said, noting that the SPLA appears to be in “full control” of Juba.
Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefs the Security Council on the situation in South Sudan. UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Reportedly, opposition forces are currently scattered around the areas of Jebel and Yei road while SPLA troops are setting up defensive positions along the Yei and Gudele road. “Further clashes, therefore, cannot be ruled out,” Mr. Ladsous explained.
Juba airport has reopened, and is firmly under the control of the SPLA. The UN Mine Action Service, yesterday, conducted a visual assessment of the ramp, taxiway and runway of Juba airport and did not find any shells or unexploded ordinances.