17 April 2014 Amid escalating violence in northern and central South Sudan, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned today’s attack on civilians and peacekeepers at the UN mission base in Bor, the war-torn capital of Jonglei state, by a mob of armed civilians who forced their way into the facility and opened fire on displaced persons sheltering inside.
“This attack on a location where civilians are being protected by the United Nations is a serious escalation,” said Mr. Ban in a statement issued by his Spokesperson in New York, which reminded all parties that any attack on UN peacekeepers is “unacceptable and constitutes a war crime.”
“The Secretary- General expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and pledges all possible support to those wounded in this attack,” the statement continued.
The UN Mission (UNMISS) has reported that some 5,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were sheltering at its base in Bor at the time of the attack. Dozens were wounded and are receiving medical attention at the compound’s clinic. In addition, UNMISS says that two of its peacekeepers sustained injuries repelling the armed mob.
Mr. Ban called on the Government to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of all the Mission’s civilian protection sites throughout the country. In his statement, the UN chief also urged all parties to refrain from any actions or statements that could further escalate the situation.
The violence that has swept South Sudan since mid-December 2013 has left thousands dead and forced around a million people to flee their homes after fighting broke out in the capital, Juba, between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and forces who sided with former vice-president Riek Machar.
UNMISS has opened the gates at 8 of its bases in the country to those seeking refuge from attacks that have taken on increasingly ethnic dimensions as the fighting has continued. Four months into the conflict, UNMISS is hosting some 67,000 civilians at its bases.
As for today’s incident, the Mission also strongly condemned what it described as a “deadly and unprovoked” attack on its base in Bor.
In a press statement, the Mission said that a yet to be confirmed number of civilians were killed or wounded by the gunmen, who entered the grounds disguised as peaceful demonstrators intending to present a petition to UNMISS.
The Mission will publish the casualty figures once they are ascertained.
Despite repeated warning shots fired by UNMISS peacekeepers, the armed mob forced entry in to the site and opened fire on the civilians. UNMISS peacekeepers returned fire, and the mob fled.
All UNMISS civilian, military and police staff are accounted for.
“UNMISS emphasizes the primary responsibility of South Sudanese to protect all its population and to maintain public order,” says the statement, which adds that the Mission also called on national, state and local authorities to thoroughly investigate “this tragic episode” and bring to justice the perpetrators of these heinous murders.
Further, the Mission called on the authorities and forces to protect all civilians, to ensure that the inviolability of UN premises is protected, and to take effective measures to prevent a recurrence of such attacks.
“UNMISS calls on all displaced persons sheltering in its bases to remain calm, exercise restraint, strictly respect the ground rules governing their stay in the camps and desist from any actions that may provoke violence,” the statement said.
The Mission reaffirmed its determination to use all necessary means to protect civilians facing violence, to protect United Nations personnel and assets, and to defend itself, in keeping with its mandate.
As for events unfolding in Unity state, in the north of the country, UNMISS says that it is gravely concerned about fighting that erupted in parts of the region on Monday, 14 April. “UNMISS Condemns these renewed hostilities in the strongest possible terms as serious violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the main parties to the crisis,” the mission said in a press statement.
According to the Mission, the fighting originated at a number of locations to the west and northwest of the state capital of Bentiu early Monday morning and by Tuesday, ant-Government forces had overrun the town and the nearby neighbourhood of Rubkona.
“As a result of the fighting, the number of internally displaced persons in the UNMISS compound has risen to 12,000”, the Mission says, adding that its peacekeepers patrolling the town had seen thousands of displaced persons gathered near the Bentiu Hospital and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) compound.
Later in the day, an UNMISS peacekeepers managed to get all remaining civilians out of the area and into a safe location at one of the Mission’s protection sites.
17 April 2014 The United Nations refugee agency announced today that following many months of suspension, family visit flights between Sahrawi refugees living in camps near Tindouf, Algeria, and their families in the territory of Western Sahara has resumed.
The flights, under the agency’s Confidence Building Measures programme, resumed yesterday with a total of 192 people gathered from Tindouf and other nearby refugee camps taking part in the visits.
“I urge all the concerned parties to remain committed to this humanitarian process and UNHCR stands ready to provide support,” he added.
UNHCR’s Confidence Building Measures programme for the Western Sahara refugee situation is an important humanitarian activity under its mandate. It includes cultural seminars, a programme of family visits and coordination meetings in Geneva with the two parties, Morocco and Frente Polisario, and two neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania.
Nearly 20,000 people have taken part in family visits since the programme began in 2004, and more than 150 people have participated in five seminars supported by the Portuguese Government. The fifth Confidence Building Measures seminar took place in the Azores, Portugal, in March 2014 and the next coordination meeting will be held in Geneva in June.
According to UNHCR, refugee families in the camps originating from the territory of Western Sahara have been separated for nearly four decades because of the absence of a political solution that might end their plight. Refugees started arriving in Algeria in 1975 after Spain withdrew from Western Sahara and fighting broke out over its control.
The UN has been involved in mediation efforts to find a settlement to the Western Sahara dispute, led in recent years by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, who has called on both parties to demonstrate flexibility and creativity in working towards a solution.
Meanwhile in New York today, the Security Council held a closed-door meeting to hear a briefing on the latest developments regarding Western Sahara.
17 April 2014 On the heels of his recent visit to the Central African Republic (CAR), where the deadly rift between Christians and Muslims continues to widen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today in a radio message appealed to all Central Africans to build a unified country through peace.
“Your future is not partition and bloodshed. It must be unity and peace,” Mr. Ban said in a personal appeal to fathers, mothers and children to end the increasing inter-communal violence that is tearing apart the country.
He noted the Muslims and Christians “have always lived together in peace” in the CAR, and urged citizens to not give into extremists who want to destroy the country and wreck their children’s futures.
This is the second time that Mr. Ban has taken to the airwaves to make a personal appeal to CAR citizens. In a February video message, he called on religious and community leaders, Muslim and Christian, to act as messengers for peace.
The violence has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature following a 2012 rebel-led coup and has since become more brutal with reports of ongoing human rights violations and clashes that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and left 2.2 million in need of humanitarian aid.
“Many of your fellow citizens have fled their homes,” Mr. Ban said in today’s appeal. “They must feel safe to return.”
He also warned those committing human rights abuses that they will be brought to justice.
The Security Council recently approved the deployment of 10,000 troops and almost 2,000 police for a new UN peacekeeping mission for CAR. It is not expected to be fully deployed before September.
Until then, support for African Union and French forces is considered crucial in stemming the violence. Mr. Ban had urged the European Union to continue to provide troop reinforcements.
Despite the presence of international troops, displaced families are exposed to disease, malnutrition and untold horrors beyond the gates of the African-led mission, Mr. Ban said following his visit two weeks ago to the country to show solidarity with the people, hear their stories and share them with the world.
During that visit, he also noted support needed for the transitional Government, including getting police, judges and prison guards back to work, and assistance in establishing an inclusive political process.