Peacekeepers made major errors that contributed to South Sudan massacre, U.N. report finds

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South Sudanese civilians flee fighting in the northeastern town of Malakal on February 18, 2016(Photo: AFP/Getty Images /Nyamilepedia)

South Sudanese civilians flee fighting in the northeastern town of Malakal on February 18, 2016

August 6, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —– Six months after an attack on a United Nations camp left dozens dead in South Sudan, an internal U.N. investigation concluded that peacekeepers made major errors that contributed to, and exacerbated, the massacre.

On Feb. 17, fighting broke out within the U.N. Protection of Civilians Site in the city of Malakal, first between young men from rival ethnic groups who had managed to smuggle guns through holes in the fence. Then the violence escalated after heavily armed government forces entered the camp.

A summary of the United Nation’s “board of inquiry report,” released Friday, said the organization and its peacekeepers failed through a “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage.”

In other words, some peacekeepers, whose most prominent mandate is to protect civilians, simply ran away once they were tested, abandoning sentry posts. Other peacekeepers demanded written permission to use their weapons, even though their U.N. mandate clearly gives them that authority.

But the failure began before the attack itself, according to the report. Peacekeepers did not heed warnings that violence was brewing, it said. The perimeter fence was poorly patrolled and left with gaping holes that could be used by combatants.

“Weapons and ammunition can easily be smuggled in and hidden,” the report said.

The end result was tragic, “ensuring that civilians would be placed in serious risk in the very location to which they had come for protection.”

It was not the first time the United Nations had failed to protect civilians, or the first time it had pointedly addressed those failings in a board of inquiry report (a list of others is below). Those investigations are meant to outline the ways the United Nations can improve its performance. But to many, they serve as reminders of how little the organization has learned from its own failures.

South Sudan, though, by the United Nations’ own admission, presents a wholly new challenge. More than 160,000 civilians are living in displacement camps where those inside are often targets of armed fighters outside. And sometimes it is unclear whether all the people inside, ostensibly in search of protection, are truly non-combatants.

Six months after an attack on a United Nations camp left dozens dead in South Sudan, an internal U.N. investigation concluded that peacekeepers made major errors that contributed to, and exacerbated, the massacre.

On Feb. 17, fighting broke out within the U.N. Protection of Civilians Site in the city of Malakal, first between young men from rival ethnic groups who had managed to smuggle guns through holes in the fence. Then the violence escalated after heavily armed government forces entered the camp.

A summary of the United Nation’s “board of inquiry report,” released Friday, said the organization and its peacekeepers failed through a “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage.”

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In other words, some peacekeepers, whose most prominent mandate is to protect civilians, simply ran away once they were tested, abandoning sentry posts. Other peacekeepers demanded written permission to use their weapons, even though their U.N. mandate clearly gives them that authority.

But the failure began before the attack itself, according to the report. Peacekeepers did not heed warnings that violence was brewing, it said. The perimeter fence was poorly patrolled and left with gaping holes that could be used by combatants.

“Weapons and ammunition can easily be smuggled in and hidden,” the report said.

The end result was tragic, “ensuring that civilians would be placed in serious risk in the very location to which they had come for protection.”

It was not the first time the United Nations had failed to protect civilians, or the first time it had pointedly addressed those failings in a board of inquiry report (a list of others is below). Those investigations are meant to outline the ways the United Nations can improve its performance. But to many, they serve as reminders of how little the organization has learned from its own failures.

South Sudan, though, by the United Nations’ own admission, presents a wholly new challenge. More than 160,000 civilians are living in displacement camps where those inside are often targets of armed fighters outside. And sometimes it is unclear whether all the people inside, ostensibly in search of protection, are truly non-combatants.

Read the full report on The Washington Post

One comment

  • GatNor

    Justifying failure to safely protect the residence of the shelter by implying that its hard to distinguish who is a non-combatant and who is a former/combatant is neither a rationale and acceptable excuse. Yes, a few might be ex-combatants or fighters from both warring factions who for one reason or the other resorted to abandoning their service to seeking safety of the protection camp at the shelter provided by the UNMISS mission.

    In any case the security of the residence of the camps is crucial and as we thought was the initial objective of the mission itself should some groups and individuals enter the residents with intent to infiltrate and or do harm to those civilians residing and seeking protection at UN Camps.

    UNMISS should seriously consider and with great caution cost effectiveness of their operations and apply preventable methods of ensuring safety of the camps and its residences including staffs rather than relying on damage controls methods which are costly and less effective after the fact and not to mention the hiccups and bumps that the mission encounters along in this process of damage controls that puts the mission’s purpose, supposed neutral role, objective in a questionable positions for obvious reasons including the Malakal incidents.

    I frankly think there should be stipulations put in places by the UNMISS management to deter and discourage to great extent those who dares infiltrating camps with intentions of harming or causing instability in and around the camps.

    In regards to UNMISS’s neutrality, the mission’s overall head of police is a Ugandan(first name Patrick..) and as the world is aware, Uganda is a party to the conflict with fighters on the ground fighting for South Sudan government whose fighters are the ones carrying out ethnic exterminations around the country with impunity including the Malakal incidents also appears to be well coordinated acts of theirs.

    One of my main concern here is that UNMISS put an individual that his boss(M7) whose country Uganda is on the ground fighting and launching major military attacks against the ethnic populations that are sheltered for protection. Whether UNMISS is aware of this fact or not the conflict of interest here is obvious considering the warnings of looming danger by the Malakal Camp residents not heeded by the UNMISS Security/Management prior to the Malakal Camp incident. Here we have a case of UNMISS putting the lion in charge of the sheep(s) …a major conflict of interest in and of itself bringing to forefront the question of UN’s and its MISSION’s neutrality. Those who have perish will not be brought to life regardless of what the world of UNMISS does, could their death have been prevented? YES.. Have UNMISS learned anything from this?