South Sudan: harassment of staff draws concern of UN mission

A precious food distribution in South Sudan. UNHCR and WFP fear that too many people may be cut off from assistance if conflict continues in the country. Photo: UNHCR/P. Rulashe

1 April 2014 – Amid growing humanitarian aid needs and despite recent assurances from the Government, the United Nations mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) continues to report increasingly difficult working conditions due to movement restrictions and other harassments against its personnel and partners.

The mission stressed that such threats, forcible searches of UN vehicles, flights and convoys, and movement constraints are in violation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the UN and the Government of South Sudan, which establishes the rights and privileges of foreign personnel in a host country in support of a larger security arrangement.

The mission calls on the Government to respect its obligation to ensure the security and the freedom of movement for peacekeepers and humanitarian personnel, reminding that such freedom is essential for the UN to be able to implement its protection and assistance mandate for the country’s vulnerable populations.

In the daily media briefing in New York earlier today, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq noted that “the humanitarian situation in the country also remains extremely fragile.”

“The Heads of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, are currently in South Sudan and said they were alarmed at the scale of the needs arising from the crisis,” he added.

In Upper Nile state, the mission has been observing large numbers of civilians returning from Malakal town to the UN protection site, which currently hosts more than 21,500 displaced persons.

“Some of the civilians said they were advised by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) troops to not enter the town because the situation was volatile, while others reported to the UN mission that they had heard gunshots in the southern part of the town,” explained Mr. Haq.

“Against this backdrop, aid agencies in South Sudan warn of even more dire humanitarian consequences, if urgently needed funds are not raised in the coming weeks,” said the spokesperson, emphasizing that the South Sudan Crisis Response Plan, which covers January to June 2014, is only 30 per cent funded.

“Of the $887 million shortfall in funding, $232 million is the bare minimum required for the next three months to avoid the humanitarian situation deteriorating sharply,” stressed Mr. Haq.

Later in the day, on the margins of the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met a delegation of the South Sudan Government, led by Awan Guol Riak, Minister in the Office of the President, and Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

According to a readout of the meeting, Mr. Ban expressed his concern about the situation in South Sudan and underlined the readiness of the UN to do all its power to assist efforts to end the violence, and promote peace and reconciliation, as well as human rights and accountability. The Secretary-General stressed the paramount importance of preventing incidents of harassment against UN personnel.


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