The security situation in South Sudan is “very worrisome,” the head of United Nations peacekeeping operations today said, warning that the number of people fleeing the country showing no signs of slowing, and calling for a political solution to the hostilities.
“You cannot hope that a solution will come by the use of weapons, the solution has to be political,” said outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous in a press conference in Juba, alongside Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who will take up the position in April.
Mr. Ladsous underscored the importance of the 2015 peace agreement signed by President Salva Kiir and opposition groups, but noted that there are concerns about implementing an agreement which will shortly be two-years old.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Ladsous said he spoke with President Kiir in what he described as a “good” meeting. Among the topics discussed were the challenges to humanitarian action, including impediments to getting clearances, as well as instances of aid workers killed or injured while on the job.
Meanwhile, the needs in the country are greater than ever with two counties in Unity state – Mayendit and Leer – formally declared famines.
Mr. Ladsous warned that the situation is “man-made” after several years of fighting and “is not going to improve” because it is now crop planting season and all farmers are displaced or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
Speaking to journalists, Mr. Ladsous also noted that the first vanguard of the UN Security Council-mandated Regional Protection Force should be deployed to Juba “in the next few weeks.” The units will be comprised of Bangladeshi, Nepalese, and Rwandan troops, followed by Ethiopian forces and troops from other countries.
The senior UN official added that he will meet tomorrow in New York with Member States who are contributing troops to discuss the deployments.
Once deployed to Juba, the Force will free a number of UNMISS units to “the countryside to better protect the civilians,” he said.
Mr. Ladsous noted, however, that the main responsibility for protection is with the Government of South Sudan: “We cannot have one blue helmet behind every single South Sudanese citizen. The responsibly to protect its own citizens is that of the Government. And we are here to support, to facilitate, to help the Government of the sovereign country of South Sudan.”