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South Sudan Welcomes Extension of UNMISS Mandate

The U.N. Security Council votes unanimously on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, to extend the mandate of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan for six months and change its focus.
South Sudan on Wednesday welcomed the U.N. Security Council resolution extending the mandate of the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for six months, but said it was disappointed that the focus of the mandate was shifting.

"The government will support the United Nations to support our people here for six months," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Arik said, welcoming the extension of the mandate.

"Of course, the United Nations is still crucial here because we still need it in South Sudan to help people,” he said.

Protecting civilians the new focus

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to extend UNMISS's mandate Tuesday. The resolution also changes the focus of the U.N. Mission's mandate from promoting development and nation-building in the young country, to protecting civilians and ending the violence in South Sudan.

UNMISS has been protecting a steadily rising number of civilians who have fled to its bases around the country in the five-and-a-half months since the violence began. In spite of a ceasefire agreement signed on May 9, there are between 75,000 and 80,000 displaced people currently sheltering inside U.N. bases.
Civilians crush up against the gates of the UNMISS compound in Bor, Jonglei state, days after South Sudan erupted in violence in December 2013.
Civilians crush up against the gates of the UNMISS compound in Bor, Jonglei state, days after South Sudan erupted in violence in December 2013.
In the resolution, the Council emphasized that the protection of civilians must be given priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources within the Mission.

The Council also condemned “in the strongest terms” attacks on and threats made to UNMISS personnel and UN facilities, and stressed that such attacks may constitute war crimes.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous said the new mandate formalizes activities that the peacekeepers have been trying to carry out since South Sudan plunged into violence in mid-December..

“We have been doing that since early this year, and it's confirmation that these are the priorities” until there’s a political settlement, Ladsous said. “And then of course we will have to think on the basis of that settlement what will be the longer-term tasks that will need to be redefined.”

The Council on Tuesday endorsed recommendations made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a recent report, to increase the overall force levels of UNMISS to support its restructured mandate.

In December, the Security Council increased UNMISS troop strength from about 7,000 to more than 12,000. The surge will include about 2,500 peacekeepers who will protect ceasefire monitors.

The resolution also expresses support for ceasefire agreements signed in January and earlier this month, and calls for their “immediate and full implementation.”

The Security Council vowed to “consider all appropriate measures” against parties who undermine peace and security - a reference to the possible imposition of sanctions.

Make capacity-building a priority

South Sudan’s Ambassador to the U.N., Francis Mading Deng, told the Security Council his government appreciated the renewal of the Mission's mandate, but urged the United Nations to reconsider its priorities and put capacity-building high on its list.

“The objective of capacity-building is to help create a state that is capable, responsible and responsive, not a state that is oppressive,” Deng said. “Failure to help build a functioning state could lead to serious problems which the United Nations and the international community might be later called upon to help address.”

Makol says the South Sudan government has formed a committee to review the UNMISS mandate in South Sudan.

“The committee is doing absolutely hard work to ensure that the government and the United Nations are on one page as regards the renewal of the UN mandate," he said.

Makol said that when UNMISS's mandate expires on November 30, Juba will ask that for a one-year extension.

Margaret Besheer contributed to this story from the United Nations in New York.