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UNMISS Background

Acting on the recommendation of the Secretary-General, the Security Council resolution 1996 (2011) PDF Documentof 8 July 2011, establishing the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year, from 9 July 2011, with the intention to renew for further periods as may be required. The mandate of the United Nations Mission  in Sudan (UNMIS) ended on the same date.

UNMISS' objective is to consolidate peace and security, and help establish conditions for development in the Republic of South Sudan, with a view to strengthening the capacity of the Government of  South Sudan to govern effectively and democratically and establish good relations with its neighbours.

2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), referendum and the independence of South Sudan

On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the newest country in the world. The birth of the Republic of South Sudan is the culmination of a six-year peace process which began with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on 9 January 2005 between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which ended more than 20 years of war.
The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) supported the implementation of the CPA during the interim period set up by the Government of Sudan and SPLM when the CPA was signed. The CPA also called for a referendum to take place to determine the status of Southern Sudan. It was held on schedule in January 2011, with the overwhelming majority, 98.83% of participants, voting for independence. The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement of the final results stating that they were reflective of the will of the people of southern Sudan.

Following the end of this interim period, and the subsequent independence of South Sudan in July 2011, the Security Council established a new mission, the United Nations Mission in  South Sudan (UNMISS) with the adoption of resolution 1996 (2011) PDF Document on 8 July 2011.

Violence breaks out

On 15 December 2013, violence broke out in South Sudan’s capital Juba and quickly spread to other locations in the country resulting in deep nation-wide political and security crisis. Seven out of the country’s ten states were affected by the conflict with Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Upper Nile states being the hardest hit.

In addition, a few days into the crisis, the relationship between the Government and UNMISS started to grow increasingly tense, amid mounting anti-United Nations sentiment emanating from misperceptions about the Mission’s role during the crisis. There were unfounded allegations that UNMISS was not impartial and that the Mission was aiding and abetting the anti-government forces. Hostile public statements were made by senior officials of the Government. The ability of UNMISS to move freely was increasingly obstructed. Demonstrations against the United Nations were organized in several state capitals, including Rumbek (Lakes State) and Aweil (Northern Bahr el Ghazal State).

For the detailed account of the December 2013-February 2014 developments in South Sudan as well as IGAD-led diplomatic efforts to find negotiated solution to the crisis, please see UN Secretary-General’s report dated 6 March 2014.

The crisis had widespread negative consequences for the human rights situation in many parts of the country, especially in areas of greatest military confrontation (in the national capital and in Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity States). UNMISS estimated that thousands of people had been killed during the hostilities. Both parties to the conflict were responsible for ethnically targeted attacks on civilians and have failed to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.

The humanitarian situation also deteriorated sharply. Within the first four weeks of the crisis, almost 500,000 persons were displaced within South Sudan and around 74,300 people had crossed into neighbouring countries. These numbers continued to grow, with total displacement by the end of February 2014 reaching 900,000 persons, some 167,000 of whom crossed into neighbouring countries. The number of civilians who had tipped into the “acute” or “emergency” categories of food insecurity had increased from 1.1 million to 3.2 million. In addition, some 500,000 displaced persons were in urgent need of food aid, which meant that the survival of 3.7 million South Sudanese was in question.

UNMISS reinforced

When the fighting erupted in Juba and spread throughout the greater Upper Nile region, tens of thousands of civilians fled from areas where large numbers of killings were taking place, including to escape targeted attacks against particular communities, and arrived at UNMISS compounds in Juba, Bor, Akobo, Bentiu, Malakal and Melut to seek refuge. The Mission opened its gates and its military engineers, working with humanitarian partners, quickly prepared sites in the compounds for the protection of civilians, despite having minimum facilities to accommodate them. Since then, as many as 85,000 civilians had sought protection in eight UNMISS compounds across the country.

The influx of so many civilians into United Nations premises and their settlement there was an unprecedented development, one that presented unique challenges and placed a huge strain on Mission resources. UNMISS strived to ensure adequate security for the protection sites in its bases and worked with humanitarian partners to provide sufficient assistance to displaced persons.

In order to give UNMISS adequate capacity to cope with the crisis, the Security Council by its resolution 2132 (2013) PDF Document of 24 December, approved Secretary-General’s recommendation to temporarily increase the overall troop and police strength of the Mission. The interim troop level of UNMISS was raised to 12,500 personnel and the police component to 1,323 personnel, including appropriate formed police units, through temporary transfers from existing peacekeeping operations through inter-mission cooperation, as well as, if needed and subject to further Council consideration, complementary force and asset generation.

This timely approval by the Security Council of the surge capacity for UNMISS military and police components under the inter-mission cooperation arrangements played a critical role in enhancing the Mission’s capacity to save lives and protect civilians from further harm.

Reporting to the Security Council on 6 March, the Secretary-General emphasized that it was important to keep this surge capacity deployed for at least 12 months. He argued that this one-year period would fit with the likely timeline of internally displaced persons returning only after a peace process has been agreed upon and leave the dry months in the latter half of 2014 for stabilization in return areas. The troop ceiling could be reviewed at the end of the 12-month period and be closely linked to the outcome of the political negotiations between the parties.

The Secretary-General believed that in light of the recent developments, UNMISS must temporarily reprioritize its activities and shift from a stand dedicated to peacebuilding, State-building and the extension of State authority, to one of strict impartiality in its relations with both parties. This shift was necessary to enable liaison and coordination activities with both parties for the effective implementation of the Mission’s redefined priority tasks in conflict-affected areas.

The main focus of the Mission, the Secretary-General suggested, should be on the protection of civilians, human rights and contributing to the creation of security conditions conducive to the delivery of humanitarian assistance, as requested and within capability, in the areas most affected by the conflict. The Mission will protect those in need, within its means. The Mission’s impartiality going forward would be the sine qua non of all its actions throughout the country as long as the conflict persisted.