Two months after the United Nations (UN) ordered an independent special investigation to appraise the response of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to the violence that erupted in Juba in July, the Major-General Patrick Cammaert-led panel has submitted the report of its finding to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.
The report revealed that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) did not do enough to protect civilians when the violence broke out. If this kind of independent review of the activities of security forces in crisis zones is adopted by governments, particularly in African countries, reports of ugly incidents and impunity occasioned by incompetency would decline greatly.
The executive summary of the report read that “In the weeks prior to the violence, UNMISS, and the humanitarian community saw timely and accurate warning signs of the resumption of hostilities in Juba between the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO). Despite the early warning that fighting would take place near UN House, the Mission did not properly prepare for three critical and foreseeable scenarios.”
The report faulted leadership loopholes for helping the violence. “The Special Investigation found that a lack of leadership on the part of key senior Mission personnel culminated in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence,” the report added. The report also gave several recommendations to the stakeholders involved in the South Sudan conflict.
In reaction to the investigative report, a statement by the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General said Ban Ki-moon “is deeply distressed by these findings. He reiterates his outrage over the acts of violence committed in Juba in July and the continuing betrayal of the people of South Sudan by too many of its leaders.”
For necessary action and intervention, the Secretary-General has transmitted the report to members of the Security Council. In the meantime, he has asked for the “immediate replacement” of UNMISS Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki.
Since late 2013, South Sudan has been in the news mostly for all wrong reasons. The face-off between President Salva Kiir and deposed Vice President Riek Machar has led to an escalated restiveness in the country, predominantly in the capital. This has caused several civilian deaths, sexual violence against women and children and many human rights violations.
The prompt reaction and actions of the United Nations and its Secretary-General to the latest special investigative report of UNMISS activities is commendable. It has not only assisted the UN to understand where the mission in South Sudan has not lived up to expectation, it has also helped to make necessary structural adjustments that would make the mission more effective and responsive.
Governments of African countries need to take a cue from this development. It is very important for them to review the activities of their security units from time to time in order to achieve efficiency. In the wake of several international reports indicting government security forces of human rights abuses and sexual violence, an independent investigative report and consistent appraisal of the activities of these indicted military setups is imperative. It will not only help to end impunity but also help improve their credibility.