UNMISS announces extension of peacekeeping presence to new locations in South Sudan
A new “light” peacekeeping presence is being deployed to the remote town of Akobo in the north-east of South Sudan to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to people in need.
The town is deep in Opposition-held territory in a country that has been torn apart by violence since civil war erupted in 2013. The community and local authorities asked the UN to send in peacekeepers and it has responded with a new approach that will see troops rotate in and out of the area rather than establishing a permanent base.
“Rather than investing huge resources and time to build a new base, we are putting in place a light and nimble peacekeeping footprint,” said the Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer. “We will install basic infrastructure to support troops who will rotate in and out on a regular basis. They will be there on the ground every week but not every single day of the week.”
At a press conference in the capital, Juba, David Shearer also announced the official opening of a new permanent peacekeeping base in Yei.
“What is important is that we are not just sitting in the base. Our troops are out regularly patrolling around the region,” he said. “This has already helped build the confidence of the local population with many civilians reportedly returning to Yei.”
Engineers from the Bangladeshi contingent that arrived as part of the Regional Protection Force, mandated by the UN Security Council, have also been busy in the area rehabilitating the Juba-Yei road and enabling the reopening of the long-closed Yei-Kaya road.
“Roads not only enable local motorists and traders to travel safely, but also support the ability of communities to come together for peace talks at grassroots level,” said David Shearer.
The UNMISS field office in the area has also supported local leaders working to put a stop to fighting in the region and to kick-start peace talks between the armed groups. It has also vigorously engaged with commanders of the organized forces in the area to improve their relationship with the local community.
The extension of protection to communities across the country has been assisted by the arrival of the first 730 members of the Regional Protection Force. Their efforts, along with those of existing UNMISS troops, comes as the leaders of South Sudanese armed groups gather in Addis Ababa for the continuation of peace talks at the High Level Revitalization Forum.
“All peace agreements ultimately depend on the parties themselves,” said David Shearer. “We can monitor, we can enforce rigorously but, at the end of the day, we are all going to have to agree to want peace. And I hope that is the spirit in which the next phase of the revitalization forum is held.”
A Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed by armed groups last month. However, clashes are continuing around the country.
“There have been skirmishes and allegations made by each side about who started the conflict. We are disappointed that this has occurred. I guess in some ways it is not necessarily surprising but, as I say, what is important is that the parties to the Agreement adhere to the Agreement, not just in word, but in reality on the ground,” said David Shearer. “We stand very strongly with the rest of the international community in condemning any party that initiates hostilities in violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and we are doing everything that we can as UNMISS to support CTSAMM in the job that they are doing.”
CTSAMM is the agency responsible for monitoring, verifying and reporting any breaches of the Agreement. UNMISS supports its work by helping it access locations around the country.
This work along with extending its peacekeeping presence and supporting the peace process more generally will continue to be UNMISS’ core focus over the coming months.