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UNMISS urged to reconsider withdrawing troops

By James Atem Kuir

Civil rights activist and chairman of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum (SSCFS), Jame David Kolok is appealing to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to reconsider its decision to withdraw troops from the Protection of Civilians sites (PoCs) across the country.

Last week, the UNMISS chief; David Shearer said the Mission has started pulling out troops and police from various PoCs throughout the country.

But Kolok who is also the Executive Director of Foundation For Democracy and Accountable Governance said that the withdrawal of the UN police and soldiers from the PoCs will be “a betrayal” to the security of civilians seeking protection from the Mission, citing continuous prevalence of violence across the country.

“UN is withdrawing troops at a time when actually the rate of violence and crimes within communities is increasing in these cities (those hosting PoCs), and generally speaking, civilians are not confident of the security situation in the country. Therefore the withdrawal of UN troops from these PoCs will be a betrayal to their protection,” Kolok said in an interview yesterday.

He added that the Mission should instead consider gradual withdrawal of the troops in collaboration with government so civilians will have assurance of their protection.

“If UNMISS wants to withdraw troops from Protection of Civilian sites, they should do so gradually, in the sense that they work collaboratively with the government that they are entrusting to protect these sites to actually provide them with the training.

I am aware that the UNMISS Chief argued that the police are already well trained; there is a difference between training and practical application of the skills acquired through training. UNMISS responsibility should have been to provide some guidance within these camps until such a time that they are confident that South Sudan Police are able to provide protection to these people,” he said.

He said UNMISS should not give in to the pressure by the government demanding the closure of the sites. He requests the Mission to continue providing protection to civilians until the implementation of the Security Arrangement is accomplished.  

“The UNMISS understands that the overall process of implementation of key provisions such as the security Arrangement is going very slowly, the implementation of the Security Arrangement remains key in insuring that we have necessary unified forces that are able to provide protection, and we don’t have that yet. Why is UNMISS withdrawing at a time when South Sudan do not have unified forces? The right time for withdrawal will be after the country has established police forces to protect civilians,” he stressed.

There are about 178,186 civilians seeking safety in six Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites located in UNMISS bases in Bentiu, Malakal, Juba UN House, Bor and Wau according to the UNMISS update in 2019.

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