21 April 2014 - Urgent military reinforcements are needed to strengthen security for the rapidly increasing numbers of civilians seeking protection at the UNMISS base in the Unity State capital Bentiu, the mission’s acting Unity State coordinator said today.
“The Mongolian Battalion, UN Police, UN Security and Formed Police Units are doing a great job in providing security,” said Mary Cummins. “However, with the big numbers of displaced people, we need the Ghanaian Battalion to arrive soon.”
The Ghanaian soldiers who have been assigned to the UNMISS Unity state support base are part of the military surge approved by the UN Security on 24 December last year to boost security and reinforce peacekeeping bases in the conflict-torn country.
Following renewed violence in Unity State last week, the number of displaced people at the UNMISS protection site had gone up from 4,500 at the beginning of April to 22,000, Ms. Cummins said.
“Internally, we are constantly reviewing all our security measures to ensure that we provide adequate protection for civilians,” she said. “We have patrols going out at least twice a day and are working with community leaders in the protection site to sensitize civilians on security measures.”
The acting Unity State coordinator noted that working with community leaders had gained renewed importance following a rocket attack at the base on 17 April.
“On Thursday, we got a rocket attack and two rockets exploded,” said Ms. Cummins. “There is another one still on site that, given the large number of displaced people, is not safe to decommission at the moment. We are making sure that area is cordoned off and that people are aware and kept safe.”
Following the rocket attack which left a seven-year-old child wounded, displaced people seeking shelter at the base in Bentiu said they felt less safe in the protection site.
“We are not feeling safe now after what had happened in Bor,” said Moubark Mousa, a displaced person at the site, referring to the attack by an armed mob at the UNMISS base in the Jonglei State capital on Thursday morning which left scores of civilians dead.
Another displaced person, Ali Osman Ali, said launching the explosives indicated to civilians seeking shelter at the protection site in Bentiu that they were being targeted from outside.
“UNMISS should find a way for us to move from this place, please,” said Abrahim Timan Hamdy. “I don’t feel safe here (and yet) we came here because we thought we would be safe in this site.”
In a press release issued after the attack in Bor, UNMISS emphasized that it was “the primary responsibility of South Sudanese authorities to protect all its population and to maintain public order”.
Calling on all displaced persons sheltering on its bases to remain calm and exercise restraint, the Mission also reaffirmed its determination “to use all necessary means to protect civilians facing violence, to protect UN personnel and assets, and to defend itself, in keeping with its mandate”.