U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan criticized for response to July attack

UNITED NATIONS, Independent investigators sharply criticized the United Nations’ response to an attack on its compound in South Sudan in July, saying U.N. peacekeepers were risk-averse.

U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan criticized for response to July attack
Refugees at the United Nations mission in Juba, South Sudan, pack up their belongings after several days of violence. Photo by Eric Kanalstein/United Nations Mission in South Sudan

The report, released Tuesday, said the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in South Sudan failed to respond appropriately to the attack, in which bullets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades hit 182 buildings in the U.N. compound in Juba, the capital.

During three days of fighting starting on July 11, at least 73 people were killed, including more than 20 refugees. Two peacekeepers were killed and several more were injured.

The investigation, led by Major General (retired) Patrick Cammaert, found the mission “did not respond effectively to the violence due to an overall lack of leadership, preparedness and integration among the various components of the mission. The special investigation also found that command and control arrangements were inadequate, while peacekeepers maintained a risk-averse posture.”

The investigators couldn’t verify allegations that peacekeepers failed to respond to acts of sexual violence committed directly in front of them on Jul 17 and 18, according to the statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will introduce several measures for the mission to take to better protect civilians, including through “greater accountability of the mission’s civilian and uniformed leadership,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

On Oct. 23, Ellen Margrethe Loj, the head of the U.N.’s peacekeeping operation in South Sudan, informed Ban that she will retire at the end of November after more than two years of leading the mission.

By Allen Cone