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Indian Army colonel in UN peacekeeping operation injured in South Sudan

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SPLA soldiers redeploy south from the Abyei area in line with the road map to resolve the Abyei crisis.

As the UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan struggles with inadequate resources and widening mandates, an Indian Army colonel was injured in crossfire between two warring groups there on Thursday, according to sources monitoring the mission in New York.

They said the officer was injured in the region of the back of the neck, but not seriously, when a camp in Malakal was hit. Indian peacekeepers are deployed there to protect several thousand refugees.

The Secretary General’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, confirmed that a peacekeeper was injured but could not identify him or his nationality. “The UN Mission reports new firing outside of its compound in Malakal,” he said. “One peacekeeper was injured.”

India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji had warned the Security Council last week about the deteriorating situation there in two letters to its president, Raimonda Murmokaite that IANS has seen.

On May 20, he wrote, “It is extremely important that the Security Council take urgent action to prevent any casualties and collateral damage with regard to the Indian troops and internally displaced people (IDPs)” or refugees.

The attack occurred hours before the Security Council voted to extend the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) till November end and authorised it “to use all necessary means” to protect civilians “irrespective of the source of such violence.”

On Friday, the UN observes the International Day of Peacekeepers.

Of the 2,000 Indian troops in UNMISS, more than 800 are based in Malakal, situated in South Sudan’s oil-rich Upper Nile state that is sandwiched between Sudan and Ethiopia. The region has been wracked by fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and supporters of former vice president Riek Machar Teny of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).

The fighting escalated about a week ago when Major General Johnson Olony defected from the government side to Riek Machar’s, taking with him a large troop contigent. Kiir retaliated by moving reinforcements to the area.

Soon afterwards Mukerji wrote to Murmokaite, “The threat is both extremely grave and imminent” and asked for assurance that “every measure feasible will be taken to ensure that casualties and damage are avoided.”

His fears are underscored by the killing of seven Indian army personnel in two separate incidents in 2013 in South Sudan.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the situation in South Sudan said that the a political solution to the conflict was essential to bring peace to the area and the peacekeeping operation could not by itself achieve that. One of them paraphrased UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s quip, “You can’t keep peace if there is no peace” to emphasise the point.

Ban in a report to the Security Council last month conceded that there was a “lack of progress towards securing a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

The sources faulted the Security Council, which does not adequately consult with troop-contributors, for not taking stronger measures to push the warring sides to a political settlement.

The peacemaking process has virtually been outsourced to a seven-nation East African organisation, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which has so far failed to broker an enforceable peace.

Earlier this month, IGAD admitted it was “deeply frustrated by the spread of violence to Upper Nile.”

Ban has also not given the South Sudan crisis the same level of attention as he has to others like Yemen.

Asked Thursday if the Ban plans to reinvigorate the peace process there, his spokesperson, Dujarric, deferred to IGAD, saying, “It’s something that IGAD continues to be in the lead. We are supportive of that process.”

Although the Security Council adopted the 4,600-word resolution backing the peacekeeping mission and emphasising its mission to protect civilians, the operations are hamstrung by lack of resources and logistical foresight, sources familiar with UNMISS operations said. This makes the peacekeepers vulnerable to attacks and the UN efforts there ineffective.

Recounting the conditions under which the Indian peacekeepers operate, a source who has seen the operations first hand, said that although the Security Council tells them “to use all necessary means,” they are virtual sitting ducks when they come under crossfire.

This is because they cannot retaliate as that would lead to direct attacks that could endanger the civilians they are protecting. “Best bet is to lie low and not do anything unless they are directly attacked,” the source said.

As a protection against mortar and heavy weapon fire, they need bunker-like defensive structure, which the UN and South Sudan government do not want built as that would appear to make the UN compounds sheltering the refugees permanent installations, the source said.

Due to lack of planning and logistics, most of the 5,000 personnel brought in during the troop surge authorised by the Security Council last year are still sitting in Juba, the country’s capital in the south instead of being deployed to areas needing them, the source said.

As result the peacekeepers in the conflict areas are stretched thin and pinned down guarding the refugees, rather than going out on confidence-building patrols. The patrols, undertaken on the ground or from the air, are an important element of the Security Council mandate because they also bring along staff from other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for outreach activities.

Transportating troops, supplies and relief for refugees difficult because South Sudan has few roads. The Upper Nile state depends mostly on river transport and convoys require armed escorts, which are in short supply.

Bangladesh has contributed a riverine unit from its navy, but it is only now being deployed, the source said, and may vessels on dry docks.

More helicopters and aircraft suitable for operating there are needed.

Peacekeepers’ movements are also restricted by the South Sudan government, the source said. Often, when they are cleared by the government, they also have to coordinate with opposition forces to ensure they are not attacked, the source said. But they do come under sporadic attacks.

Mukerji pointed out to he Security Council president in a letter last Friday that a camp at Melut in Upper Nile state ran out of water and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army was not allowing the peacekeepers to fetch water from the river.

-IANS

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US Restricts Visas for Cambodians ‘Undermining Democracy’

As a response to anti-democratic actions, Trump administration restrict VISA for Cambodians

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Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen attends a ceremony at the Angkor Wat temple to pray for peace and stability in Cambodia, Dec. 3, 2017.

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy” in the Southeast Asian nation following the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on independent media.

The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected. It said visa records are confidential under U.S. law.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert called on the Cambodian government to reinstate the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved by Supreme Court order last month, and free its leader Kem Sokha, imprisoned since September. She also urged Cambodia to allow civil society and media to operate freely.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power for more than three decades, has sought to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of national elections next year. Kem Sokha has been charged with trying to topple the government with U.S. support, which Washington has said is a baseless accusation.

Supporters of Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, stand outside the Appeal Court during a bail hearing for the jailed opposition leader in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Sept. 26, 2017.

Nauert said Cambodia’s actions run counter to the Paris Peace Agreements of 1991. The United States and 18 other governments signed the accords, which ushered in democracy after the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, then occupation by Vietnam and civil war.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will restrict entry into the United States of “those individuals involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia,” Nauert said in a statement, adding that in certain circumstances, family members of those individuals will also be subject to visa restrictions. The department cited a provision of U.S. immigration law under which individuals can be denied entry if the secretary determines it would have “adverse foreign policy consequences.”

The White House has already terminated U.S. support of Cambodia’s national election committee, saying last month that the July 2018 vote “will not be legitimate, free or fair.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional steps as necessary, while maintaining our close and enduring ties with the people of Cambodia,” Nauert said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks during a press availability at NATO in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 6, 2017.

​Monovithya Kem, an opposition spokeswoman currently in the U.S., welcomed the visa restrictions and called for targeted financial sanctions on senior officials in Hun Sen’s government. Kem, who is the daughter of Kem Sokha, urged the U.S., Japan, Australia and the European Union to coordinate responses to the “crisis” in Cambodia and help win her father’s freedom.

Like many prominent opposition figures, Kem has fled Cambodia as she fears arrest.

Hun Sen has been in office since 1985 and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

In recent months, the government has intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets. In September, it shut down the English-language Cambodia Daily. Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.

The government also expelled the U.S. National Democratic Institute, which helped train political parties and election monitors, accusing it of colluding with its opponents.

Hun Sen has moved Cambodia closer to China in recent years and become increasingly critical of Washington. However, he’s been complimentary of President Donald Trump.

Speaking at Asian leaders’ summit attended by Trump last month, Hun Sen praised the U.S. leader for non-interference in affairs of other nations, but complained the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia was not adhering to the policy. (VOA)

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Defence Minister looking into education fund cap issue: Army Chief

The Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare had capped tuitions and hostel fees at Rs 10,000 per month in a letter dated September 13.

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The Defence Minister shall look into the education fund cap issue to resolve the problem
Minister of Defence Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi. Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has promised to resolve the issue of a cap of Rs 10,000 on educational expenses paid to the children of defence forces martyrs.

The Army chief further revealed that the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, has informed the Defence Minister of the issue, and she that has said the issue will be addressed on priority.

Defence Ministry sources reported that the Minister had held a meeting on the issue on Wednesday and a decision is likely to be announced soon.

General Rawat said: “For our martyrs, children are entitled (to) free education. It is a very good thing that the government has done. What has happened is possibly because of some misunderstanding– they have now capped it at Rs 10,000 because somebody must have calculated as to how much a person spends per month on child education,” .

“In our case, we have written to the government. I think the Defence Minister is completely seized of the problem. She is aware of it, and after we explained the reason to her… she said she is certainly concerned about it and will address the issue on priority,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.

According to informed sources, Admiral Lanba, the most senior among the three service chiefs, wrote to the Minister to urge her to resolve the problem.

A letter dated September 13 by the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare had capped fee for tuitions and hostel expenses at Rs 10,000 per month.

The demand to a rollback on the decision was also raised by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, and Union Minister of State for External Affairs General V.K. Singh, who is himself an Army ex-chief. (IANS)

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Free Wife, Daughter of Dr Allah Nazar : American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Appeals to UN and other International bodies to act against Enforced Disappearance of Women and Babies in Pakistan

At least 8,000 Baloch are still victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan while 1500 such victims were killed and dumped, according to human rights organizations.

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AFB
The enforced disappearance of women and babies is a sequel to disappearances of the Baloch leaders, activists,  lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists and people from all walks of life who demand justice for Balochistan. Facebook
Washington DC, Oct 31, 2017: The DC-based American friends of Balochistan has appealed to the United Nations, US State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Unicef, International service for Human Rights and other international bodies to step in to free four women and three babies from the illegal captivity of Pakistan security forces.
Fazila Baloch, wife of Balochistan freedom leader Dr Allah Nazar Baloch and his adopted daughter Popal Jan, 4; Fazila’s friend Bibi Salma and her one-and-half years old son named Irfan;  Ayaal and her two years old daughter Zairak and a fourth woman Gohar Jan, were abducted Monday afternoon from Bibi Salma home in Quetta, capital of Balochistan.
According to details, Dr Nazar’s wife, who was badly injured in the bombing on Dr Nazar’s village in December 2012 was in Quetta for medical treatment. The bombing had killed 44 close relatves of Dr Nazar dead.
AFB
Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch. Facebook
The AFB said the enforced disappearance of women and babies was clear violation of the Geneva conventions and shows Islamabad is committing violations of the laws of war with impunity in Balochistan.
“Enforced disappearances of women and babies show unconscionable acts of state terror is being perpetrated on Baloch civilians. The United Nations and human rights organizations should immediately hold Pakistan accountable for its actions in Balochistan. We regret that enforced disappearances in Balochistan has not received the attention of the world community, further emboldening the Deep State of Pakistan to throw the Geneva conventions to the winds in Balochistan.”
The enforced disappearance of women and babies is a sequel to disappearances of the Baloch leaders, activists,  lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists and people from all walks of life who demand justice for Balochistan.
“In the backdrop of a genocidal situation, mass graves have been found, villages have been bombed, burned and destroyed and the means of livelihood of citizens have been snatched in the length and breadth of France-sized Balochistan. All these actions of Pakistan security and intelligence services constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes, while ethnic cleansing is continuing on a daily basis to pave way for the multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor.”
“In the United States when a child is abducted by any criminal we have what is called an “Amber ” alert. Within minutes across the entire United States is broadcast on television, radio, even on flashing signs on highways across the interstate. Unfortunately in Balochistan the security forces are the criminals who are doing these abductions,” the AFB said.
The AFB said two days earlier, Pakistan security forces raided Baloch homes in the Gulistan-i-Johar area of Karachi and forcibly disappeared nine youngsters, including an eight year old  boy Aftab, son of Yunus.
“No words are enough to condemn these despicable acts of the security and intelligence services against the hapless Baloch populace. We urge immediate action by the State Department and ending all dealings with the Southern Command of Pakistan army that calls the shots in Balochistan, the Inter Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Frontier Corps in deference for the Leahy Amendment,” the AFB statement concluded.
At least 8,000 Baloch are still victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan while 1500 such victims were killed and dumped, according to human rights organizations.