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South Sudan refugees under heavy protection of Indian peacekeepers

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Photo: http://shethepeople.tv

United Nations: Indian peacekeepers are “taking robust measures to protect South Sudan refugees sheltered in a massive camp where 18 people have been killed and scores injured this week in fighting between ethnic groups — which has come under attack from the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), according to a source monitoring the situation from here.

The fighting started Wednesday between young people belonging to the Shilluk and Dinka tribes in the Malakal camp in South Sudan and SPLA members fired into the camp and also entered it attacking civilians, the Security Council said Friday in a press statement.

At that point, the source at the UN told IANS, “the Indian troops went in and even fired with their APCs (armored personnel carriers) and other things to get the situation under control.”

The SPLA, “although they would deny it, fired into the camp from the outside also” and the Indian peacekeepers “took robust measures externally to prevent any SPLA soldiers from harming these people and getting the situation under control,” the source added.

The internal security of the camp is the responsibility of the UN police forces, while the external protection is of the troops. The troops back up the police inside in emergencies.

The source said that SPLA members were able to get inside the camp as civilians “because they are Dinkas they can wear civvies.” It was also possible for them to bring in weapons through the Dinkas who live inside the camp and can go in and out, the source added.

There were no casualties among the peacekeepers, the source said. Out of the 2,273 Indian peacekeepers in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) about 550 are stationed in Malakal. Rwandan peacekeepers are also based there and operate alongside Indians.

Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Switzerland-headquartered international medical charity, said two of those killed were its staff members.

Amid rising tensions in South Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit it next week, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Friday. He added that Ban condemned the latest round of violence and expressed concern over “the rising inter-communal tensions between the Dinka and Shilluk which precipitated this incident.” (Arul Louis, IANS)

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2015 Agreement to Bring Peace to Ukraine’s East Remains Unimplemented

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems.

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FILE - A Russia-backed rebel guards the position after sunset near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 2, 2015. Hostilities in eastern Ukraine have abated after February's peace agreement, but the truce has been frequently violated. VOA

A 2015 agreement to bring peace to Ukraine’s volatile east remains largely unimplemented and civilians are paying the highest price, with more than 3,300 killed and 3.5 million needing humanitarian aid this year, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014 and support for separatist rebels in the east triggered a conflict with Ukrainian government forces that the U.N. says has also injured up to 9,000 civilians and displaced 1.5 million people.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca told the Security Council that negotiations “appear to have lost momentum,” with Russia and Ukraine unable or unwilling to agree on key steps forward or too distracted to focus on implementing the 2015 agreement.

UN, Russia
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia addresses the United Nations Security Council, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 17, 2018. VOA

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia and Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko blamed each other for the failure to implement the agreement signed in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

Jenca, who is in charge of European affairs, stressed that the conflict in eastern Ukraine is not dormant. “It is a conflict in the heart of Europe which continues to claim victims,” he said.

Jenca said the main parties have committed to over a dozen cease-fires since the start of the conflict, but “each one was regrettably, short-lived.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s monitoring mission in Ukraine reports that the military positions of both sides are coming closer to each other in the “gray areas” near the so-called “contact line,” he said. “The use of heavy weapons and their deployment in the proximity of the contact line is a reality.”

United Nations
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, April 25, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. VOA

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems, noting that many of the 3.5 million people who need aid are elderly, women and children.

“Many are struggling to access schools, hospitals and other essential services,” she said. “Many have lost their jobs, homes, family members and friends.”

Mueller said the U.N. has appealed for $162 million this year to aid 2.3 million people.

Ertugrul Apakan
Ertugrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, addresses a news conference at OSCE’s headquarters in Vienna, Feb. 5, 2015. VOA

Ertugrul Apakan, chief of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, told the council by video that many people use checkpoints in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk to receive pensions and see families separated by the conflict. Since December, he said, there have been “14 cases of people who died from natural causes while waiting at the checkpoints.”

Mueller said most of those who died this year were elderly. People wait for several hours in freezing temperatures to cross the contact line, and she urged better conditions and additional crossing points, especially in Luhansk where there is only one.

Before the meeting, eight former and current European Union members of the Security Council issued a joint statement urging humanitarian access to areas not under Ukrainian government control.

They called on Russia “to immediately stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support” to the separatists and reiterated their opposition to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Nonetheless, they said, they “remain convinced that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible.”

Nebenzia said Russia called the council meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 agreement, declaring that the situation in southeastern Ukraine “remains explosive” with positions now “too close to each other at some locations.” He said Ukraine “comprehensively and consciously ignores and sabotages the Minsk agreements and our Western partners cover up for all of its unlawful acts.”

Russia, United Nations
Ukrainian Ambassador the the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Nov. 26, 2018. VOA

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Ukraine’s Yelchenko countered that “it is only Russia and its ongoing military activity in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as well as in Crimea that constitute for now an unsurmountable obstacle for the peaceful resolution of the conflict.” (VOA)