Ban fires commander of South Sudan UN peacekeeping operations

United Nations, Nov 2 (IANS) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has fired the Kenyan general heading the South Sudan UN peacekeeping force, who was in overall command of the Indian and other troops serving in the nation wracked by civil war.

Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, who announced the dismissal of Lt. Gen. Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki on Monday, cited a lack of leadership when the UN offices, refugee camps and other facilities in South Sudanese capital Juba came under attack during the clashes between that country’s rival armies in July.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had 2,277 Indian peacekeepers serving under Ondieki’s overall command.

Dujarric said that a “deeply distressed” Ban ordered Ondieki’s dismissal after receiving the report of an inquiry into the incidents which claimed at least 73 lives when UN facilities came under attack during the fighting between rival South Sudanese forces.

A summary of the report that was released did not say anything specifically about Indian peacekeepers.

But blaming Ondieki, who took charge only in June for the problems in July, it said that the UN peacekeeping “force did not operate under a unified command, resulting in multiple and sometimes conflicting orders to the four troop contingents from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India, and ultimately underusing the more than 1,800 infantry troops at UN House” in Juba.

The report said that in two instances the Chinese battalion “abandoned some of its defensive positions” at a refugee camp, while the Nepalese police unit did not act properly to stop looting by some refugees inside the UN House and to control crowds.

While the UN peacekeeping operations have been criticised for not acting swiftly and decisively when they or the people they are mandated to protect come under attack, the real failure is that of the Security Council, which has not come up with proper guidelines or consulted the troop contributing countries.

Increasingly the peacekeepers are deployed by the Council in the middle of active conflicts without clear mandates on the extent and method of using of force, frustrating both the troops and the countries that contribute them.

Except for China, the five permanent members of the Council do not contribute troops in substantial numbers to the UN operations and are thus shielded from the outcomes of their decisions.

The report acknowledged that UNMISS faced extremely challenging circumstances and was under crossfire from rival groups.

The clashing forces in South Sudan are the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition that backs Vice President Riek Machar.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in)

–IANS

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