US: US asks South Sudan to act on report of July violence in Juba

Washington, DC, US (PANA) - The US has asked the South Sudan government to act on the report of the independent special investigation that was conducted into the violence in the capital, Juba, last July and bring perpetrators to justice.

"It’s absolutely critical that the South Sudanese Government protect civilians, humanitarian workers, and other international aid workers within its borders," Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department, told a press briefing in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

"(And) the government should act on the report that was compiled by the investigation committee and hold all the perpetrators of that violence accountable through a fair and credible process that’s consistent with South Sudan’s international human rights obligations."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who received the report of the Independent Special Investigation, is “deeply distressed” by its findings, including that UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) did not respond effectively to the violence, which erupted in early July, "due to an overall lack of leadership, preparedness and integration among the various components of the mission".

The incidents occurred during a spate of clashes between rival forces – the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), loyal to President Salva Kiir, and the SPLA in Opposition, backing First Vice-President Riek Machar – that broke out in and around Juba, on 7 July, close to the fifth anniversary of the country’s independence.

UN compounds and UNMISS-managed civilian protection sites were attacked during the fighting and, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, a separate preliminary UN investigation into the violence and its aftermath revealed that Government security forces carried out killings and rapes, and looted and destroyed properties.

The investigation, commissioned by the Secretary-General, led by a retired UN peacekeeper, Maj.-Gen. Patrick Cammaert, found that “UNMISS did not respond effectively to the violence due to an overall lack of leadership, preparedness and integration among the various components of the mission” and that “command and control arrangements were inadequate, while peacekeepers maintained a risk-averse posture,” the statement said.

Mr Toner said UNMISS, which was the focus of the report, and their actions, is mandated under Security Council resolutions to use all necessary means to protect civilians under threat of physical violence regardless of the source of such violence, and within its capacity, certainly in the areas of deployment, with specific protections for women and children.

"And upholding that mandate enhances the faith in peacekeepers and the utility of peacekeeping missions everywhere. And we certainly express our gratitude to the peacekeepers who tried to stem the violence and extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the violence in July."

Mr Toner said the US remains a proponent of UN peacekeeping, adding that peacekeeping missions are an indispensable tool for promoting peace and reconciliation in some of the worst spots of the world. "And we’re going to continue to make every opportunity to work with UN leadership, including the secretary-general, to hold peacekeeping operations to the highest standards."

The UN Secretary-General has dismissed the Commander of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Kenyan Lt.-Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, following the receipt of the report.

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, said that in line with the report’s recommendations, the Secretary-General had asked for the “immediate replacement” of Lt.-Gen. Ondieki.

The Kenyan government, which has been angered by the decision to sack Lt.-Gen. Ondieki, on Wednesday announced the withdrawal of its troops from UNMISS and freeze its engagement in the South Sudanese peace effort.

It said the process leading to the dismissal of the Kenyan General not only lacked transparency but did not involve any formal consultation with the government of Kenya which demonstrates total disregard for "our key role and responsibilities in South Sudan".

Mr Toner said The US appreciates the invaluable role that Kenya has played in carrying out UNMISS’ peacekeeping and expressed the hope that they’ll continue to play a role. "Kenyan troops also serve in several other UN missions, and we’ve continued to discuss the importance of Kenya’s role and contribution to UNMISS with Kenyan authorities...We’re going to continue to engage with the Kenyan Government."

Kenya initially had 310 troops in South Sudan until early 2014, when the troops were increased to 1,000 under a UN Security Council resolution.

Kenya was in the process of deploying additional troops to the conflict-ridden country under a regional initiative agreed by the Africa Union to stabilize South Sudan.
-0- PANA MA/VAO 4Nov2016

04 november 2016 05:55:09

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