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Amid fighting in South Sudan, senior UN officials urge protection for all communities

Civilians taking refuge at UNMISS compound in Juba.
Civilians taking refuge at UNMISS compound in Juba.

Amid fighting in South Sudan, senior UN officials urge protection for all communities

Amid reports of continued clashes today in South Sudan, senior United Nations officials are calling for restraint and protection of civilians, regardless of their communities.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on leaders of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), whose members are fighting with each other in the capital, Juba, “to impose discipline on their forces and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force.”

“It is essential that the Government guarantees the security of all civilians,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement released last night, noting the risk of targeted violence against certain communities.

In a telephone call this morning with Salva Kiir, Mr. Ban urged the South Sudanese President to make sure that all security forces operate in full compliance with international humanitarian law.

According to his spokesperson, the UN chief told Mr. Kirr that he was counting on him to “exercise real leadership at this critical moment, and to instill discipline in the ranks of the SPLA to stop this fighting among them.”

He also called on the entire Government to extend an offer of dialogue to its opponents and to resolve their respective differences peacefully, adding that the UN was ready to assist the Government in managing this difficult situation.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is continuing to provide protection to an estimated 10,000 people at two of its compounds, according to the latest figures from Juba.

The clinic at the Tomping compound has already passed its maximum capacity with at least 39 people admitted for medical treatment and three babies born overnight, according to the latest information.

“The Mission is taking every possible step to ensure their safety while they are staying on UNMISS premises,” it stated in a news release.

The head of UNMISS and Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson, today warned against hate speech in relation to the inter-communal violence, cautioning that it is paramount that it does not assume ethnic dimensions.

“At a time when unity among South Sudanese is more needed than ever, I call on the leaders of this new country and all political factions and parties, as well as community leaders to refrain from any action that fuels ethnic tensions and exacerbates violence,” she said.

“As South Sudan struggles to overcome the current crisis, the Mission urges all of its citizens and leaders to guard against any incendiary actions or violence against particular communities,” UNMISS added.

It also echoed Mr. Ban’s statement, stressing that “discipline, command and control in the security forces are more important than ever.”

Media reports say over 60 soldiers have been killed in two days of clashes in Juba, following what the Government says is an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to former deputy president Riek Machar, who was dismissed in July.