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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.
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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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Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent.

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Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.

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They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.

The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.

Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.

Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.

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Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.

“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”

Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.

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Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.

Also Read: Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)