Ban sacks UN commander in South Sudan | News | DW | 01.11.2016
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Ban sacks UN commander in South Sudan

A Kenyan who headed UN forces in South Sudan when its peace deal collapsed amid fighting in July has been sacked by UN chief Ban Ki-moon. An "overall lack of leadership" left civilians unprotected, says a special report.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban on Tuesday had asked for the "immediate replacement" of Kenyan Lieutenant General Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki, who commanded peacekeepers from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India.

This follows a UN announcement two weeks ago that the civilian head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Danish diplomat Ellen Margrethe Loj, would be "stepping down" this November.

Ban said on Tuesday that he was "deeply distressed" by "serious shortcomings" identified in a special UN probe and report completed by investigators led by a retired Dutch general, Patrick Cammaert,

South Sudan's capital Juba endured three days of intense fighting from July 8-11 between President Salva Kiir's troops and forces loyal to ex-rebel chief Riek Machar that left civilians, refugees and humanitarian workers caught in the crossfire.

Südsudan Rebellenführer Riek Machar in Juba (Reuters/Stringer)

Macher und Kiir on July 8, just before the fighting

At least 73 people were killed, including two Chinese peacekeepers and more than 20 internally displaced South Sudanese.

'Lack of leadership'

The UN report 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 mission "underused" its more than 1,800 infantry troops located in Juba who were mandated to protect the main UN compound known as "UN House" as well as Terrain Camp - a private compound that housed staff of humanitarian agencies, including UN staff.

The mission also "did not properly prepare" for the escape to UN House of many internally displaced South Sudanese. Some 27,000 were located at two adjacent "protection of civilian" (POC) sites caught up in the fighting between government and opposition fighters, the Cammaert report said.

At one point the UN Force Commander ordered the Chinese battalion's commander to take charge of "all the forces at the UN House in addition to his own battalion," said the report.

Phone credit expired

One of three international female humanitarian workers stuck at the Terrain camp managed to phone UN security on the evening of July 11, but was unable to take a return call later "when her phone credit expired."

"The Security officer, whom the Special Investigation was unable to identify, was dismissive of her appeal for assistance," said the report.

A private security company ended up "extracting" the three women the next day as evacuations proceeded.

Looting unchecked

Even after fighting subsided in the capital Juba, the UN mission "did not provide" protection around the UN House compound, despite requests from the World Food Program (WFP).

Food, equipment and supplies worth $29 million (26.4 million euros) were "looted over three weeks."

Even after the July crisis, UN military and police staff continued to "display a risk-averse posture unsuited to protecting civilians from sexual violence," said the report.

'Raft of measures' planned

On Tuesday, the UN in New York said Ban was planning a "raft of measures" for UNMISS to "better protect civilians, including greater accountability of the mission's civilian and uniformed leadership."

UN-Generalsekretär Ban Ki-moon (Ruters/V. Kessler )

A 'raft of measures' planned by Ban, says the UN

Contributing countries should be held accountable for "inaction by peacekeepers when civilians are attacked within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a peacekeeping base," said the Cammaert report in its recommendations.

It also recommended regular rehearsals of scenarios, including evacuations, and the requirement that all UNMISS officers have a "working command of English."

UNMISS has in total 12,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan, with 4,000 additional recruits to be assigned since a UN Security Council decision in August.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but since 2013 its been embroiled in outbreaks of violence.

ipj/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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