Violence in Bentiu leaves thousands displaced

15 Apr 2014

Violence in Bentiu leaves thousands displaced

15 April 2014 - The number of people seeking shelter at UNMISS in the Unity State capital Bentiu had doubled over the past last few days, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer said in Juba today.

“We think we now have at least 9,000 people inside our base there,” said Mr. Lanzer, noting that this was up from 4,500 displaced people at the base two weeks ago.

Mr. Lanzer said he felt “a certain sense of outrage”, as UNMISS, UN agencies and other aid agencies made efforts to deal with immediate consequences of the ongoing violence.

“There is allegedly a Cessation of Hostilities (agreement), but the incidents of Bentiu just show that it is not real,” he said. “It is really an outrage for the people …, who if left in peace, will contribute so much to the development of this country.”

UNMISS had sent a patrol of peacekeepers to protect civilians seeking shelter in Bentiu Hospital, said Mr. Lanzer, who is also Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG). This was done to avoid a repeat of incidents in Malakal Hospital in Upper Nile State, where innocent civilians were reportedly killed by fighting forces, he added.

Mr. Lanzer, who also serves as UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, said it would take “compassion, humility and a new way of thinking” for the country to achieve peace, which would enable it to become a “viable state”.

The Humanitarian Coordinator said the vital challenge for South Sudan must be to achieve economic prosperity, rather than have people “just trying to stay alive”. He commended progress made in stable states like Western Equatoria.

Mr. Lanzer highlighted re-establishment of a UNDP initiative in which 35 civil servants from Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states had returned to South Sudan (after fleeing the fighting) to support nation-building through collaboration with the country’s civil service. He also noted that UNDP was putting together a livelihoods project aimed at empowering displaced people living on UN bases.

“I am really pleased that the National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation was launched on 5 April,” said Mr. Lanzer. “It aims to supplement talks in Addis, to give a voice to women, civil society groups and others who have every right to have their voice heard.”

The DSRSG revealed that UNICEF, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Ministry of Education were working together to put in place nationally recognized “Education in Emergency” certificates. He lauded work done by the UNMISS Japanese Engineering Contingent and UNDP to complete and open a new law faculty building at Juba University.

However, humanitarians faced huge challenges in helping over 70,000 civilians at UN bases, 700,000 others displaced outside and seven million at the risk of severe hunger, the Humanitarian Coordinator said.

He cited limited resources, with only 36 per cent of $1.27 billion funding required for crisis response raised, as well as continuing violence, interference with aid operations and coming rains.

“We are doing an awful lot, but we can never do enough and we shouldn’t be called on to do everything,” said Mr. Lanzer. “This is the responsibility of the leaders of South Sudan … It is only the leaders and the people of South Sudan who can reconcile their differences and who eventually can build their own country.”