United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he would urge the Security Council to reinforce the U.N. mission in South Sudan, as violence in the world’s youngest nation mounts.
Hoping to beef up the mission’s capacity to protect civilians, the U.N. secretary general called for “additional troops, police and logistical assets,” although he did not specify numbers.
The U.N. mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is currently capped at 7,000 soldiers and 900 police, and includes more than 2,000 civilians, both locals and foreigners. The Security Council must approve any increase in the numbers.
Nearly 45,000 civilians are under U.N. protection at bases in the country, notably in the capital Juba and the cities of Bor and Bentiu, Ban said.
“I am determined to ensure that UNMISS has the means to carry out its central task of protecting civilians,” Ban said, describing the situation as “one of mounting urgency.”
Ban suggested reinforcements could come from other U.N. peacekeeping missions.
He also indicated he had been in contact with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and other regional leaders as the violence has escalated.
Finding a way out
“I have consistently called on President Salva Kiir and opposition political leaders to come to the table and find a political way out of this crisis,” Ban said.
“The world is watching all sides in South Sudan. Attacks on civilians and the U.N. peacekeepers deployed to protect them must cease immediately.”
The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said Monday that humanitarian agencies were facing a “massive increase in need.”
He called on donors “to make resources available” so that U.N. agencies and NGOs can bring in personnel and supplies after more than a week of intense fighting.
“We are looking at a massive increase in need and I am engaging all parties to ensure that civilians are protected and that aid workers are able to access people who need our help,” Lanzer said.
“The situation is particularly bad in Jonglei and Unity states, where fighting has displaced thousands of civilians,” said Lanzer, just back from the U.N. base in Bor, where 17,000 civilians have taken refuge.
In Juba, the United Nations and aid agencies are helping 20,000 refugees in two camps and have distributed food to 7,000 refugees seeking shelter at a U.N. base in Bentiu.
Rebel forces under former vice president Riek Machar have taken control of Bor and Bentiu and the remaining South Sudanese army loyal to Kiir is readying an assault.