South Sudan

Conflict Sensitivity Analysis: United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites transition: Bentiu, Unity State, and Malakal, Upper Nile State

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This Conflict Sensitivity Analysis (CSA) was requested by the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group in October 2020 and examines the conflict sensitivity implications of the transition of UN Protection of Civilian sites in Bentiu, Unity State, and Malakal, Upper Nile State, from sites under the protection of United Nations Mission in South Sudan to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan.

The Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility is intended to support conflict-sensitive aid programming in South Sudan. The Facility is funded by the UK, Swiss, Dutch and Canadian donor missions in South Sudan and is implemented by a consortium of NGOs including Saferworld and swisspeace.

Executive Summary

This Conflict Sensitivity Analysis was requested by the Inter-Cluster Coordination Group (ICCG) in October 2020. It examines the key conflict dynamics and conflict sensitivity considerations of the transition of UN Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites under the protection of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Bentiu, Unity State, and Malakal, Upper Nile State, to camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS). This follows the announcement on 4 September 2020 of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) in South Sudan, David Shearer, that UNMISS will ‘progressively withdraw its uniformed troops and police from the Bor and Wau PoCs and gradually do the same in the Juba, Bentiu and Malakal PoC sites’. The analysis used a mixed methods approach, including virtual semistructured interviews with key informants (KI) from multiple organisations (including UN agencies,
Cluster leads, national NGOs and international NGOs) and incorporating feedback from 10 focus group discussions (FGDs) conducted across different gender and age groups in Bentiu and Malakal PoCs which were facilitated by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This report looks at conflict sensitivity considerations of the PoC transition in Benitu and Malakal, and then provides recommendations to donors, aid agencies, UNMISS and the Government of South Sudan to consider during and after the transition. It identifies how aid actors’ response could mitigate negative impacts on conflict dynamics or leverage positive opportunities. The focus of this analysis is the PoC sites in Bentiu and Malakal, both of which have a history of inter-communal and inter-ethnic tension among neighbouring communities. The conflict sensitivity analysis does not provide an indepth analysis of either the wider conflict dynamics in Unity and Upper Nile state or the broader housing, land and property (HLP) issues outside of the PoCs.

The PoC sites were established at UNMISS bases as a result of the civil war that broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. In September 2020, approximately 167,856 IDPs were reportedly residing within the five PoC, or former-PoC, sites. The justification provided by UNMISS for transitioning the sites included a reported reduction in the immediate threats that led PoC residents to seek shelter within the PoC sites; that the PoCs sites absorb significant uniformed capacity, thereby limiting UNMISS’s capacity to protect civilians in other conflict hotspots (i.e., Warrap, Jonglei, and the Greater Equatoria states); and that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)-led GRSS views the existence of the sites as infringing on its sovereignty.

Bentiu, Unity State’s capital, hosts the largest PoC site, with a current population of 99,052 residents.
Most residents fled to the PoC following attacks in southern Unity State, in which the Sudan People’s Liberation Army troops and its allied militias destroyed and confiscated crops and property while engaging in widespread violence against civilians.2 With 33,137 residents, the Malakal PoC is situated near Malakal town, which was largely destroyed during by civil war. Continuing tensions between the Shilluk and Padang Dinka communities in Upper Nile State are related to disputes over access to, and the control of, lands on the east bank of the Nile, from which many Shilluk have been displaced, and have been exacerbated by the recent killings of prominent figures from the Shilluk community in Malakal PoC and town between July and November 2020