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South Sudan on ‘verge of fragmenting,’ UN officials warn Security Council

UN Police conducts search operation in Juba Protection of Civilians site, South Sudan. Photo: UNMISS

19 February 2016 – With senior United Nations officials warning of escalating inter-communal violence and rampant human rights violations in South Sudan, the Security Council today strongly condemned all attacks and provocations against civilians and the UN by armed actors, and called for calm on all sides.

In a statement to the press, the Council condemned “in the strongest terms” violence committed by elements of the Shilluk and Dinka communities, which erupted in the protection of civilians site in Malakal managed by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), on February 17 and which continued into yesterday, resulting in more than 18 deaths and 50 injuries.

The members of the Council said they were particularly alarmed by credible reports of armed men in Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) un uniforms entering the UNMISS camp and firing on civilians, and the looting and burning of tents.

Strongly condemning “all attacks and provocations against civilians and the United Nations by armed actors, including SPLA soldiers,” the Council reminded all parties, including Government security forces, of the civilian character of the protection of civilian sites in South Sudan.

In its statement, the Council went to call for calm by all sides and to refrain from additional fighting, acts of violence, and further provocations. The 15-member body also called on the Government “to swiftly investigate this attack, with the assistance of UNMISS, and bring the perpetrators to justice. “It is the responsibility of the Government […] to hold those responsible for the attack accountable,” emphasized the Council.

The Security Council stressed that attacks against civilians and UN premises may constitute war crimes, and those involved could be potentially subject to sanctions as authorized under its resolution 2206 (2015) for actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of South Sudan.

In a scheduled briefing that preceded the Council’s statement, two senior UN officials urged the body and regional leaders to continue engaging all parties involved in the longstanding conflict to attain a sustainable peace.

Situation on the Ground

Moustapha Soumaré, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and deputy UNMISS chief reiterated the Mission’s grave concern over the outbreak of violence at the Malakal site and noted that UNMISS uniformed personnel are undertaking robust measures to strengthen physical security within and around the site, while humanitarian partners are working to resume delivery of essential services.

“Meanwhile, we are engaged at all levels in the Government, the opposition and the national security forces, as well as within the communities themselves, to address the underlying factors and avoid a resumption of violence,” Mr. Soumaré said.

Violence continues in many regions of the country, including in areas that had previously been relatively calm, he said. Of particular concern is the deteriorating security situation in Western Bahr E1 Ghazal, particularly around Wau, which has also escalated over the past 48 hours.

In response to shifting conflict dynamics, Mr. Soumaré said the Mission has adopted a “more agile force posture” to protect civilians affected by violence. UNMISS is focusing on projecting physical presence away from its bases in Bentiu, Bor, Juba, Malakal and Wau through long-duration patrols and temporary operating bases in areas where insecurity is high.

This includes the establishment of temporary operating bases in Leer as well as in Mundri, which, along with the deployment of an additional company to Yambio, has strengthened the Mission’s presence in western Equatoria.

Humanitarian Challenges

As violence continues, humanitarian needs are also increasing, the Special Representative said. An estimated 6.1 million people across South Sudan are in urgent need of assistance as a result of interlocking threats, including armed conflict and inter-communal violence, economic decline, disease and climactic shocks. Insecurity and poor road conditions are also negatively impacting the UN’s capability to preposition humanitarian supplies before roads are made impassable by the coming rainy season.

Despite these urgent needs, the Mission and humanitarian partners continue to face significant constraints on their operations, including regular instances in which personnel are denied freedom of movement, as well as other violations of the Mission’s Status of Forces Agreement with the Government. These incidents are regularly reported to the Council and to Government counterparts, he noted.

“It is of critical importance that the parties move ahead with the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity,” Mr. Soumaré emphasized. “Nonetheless, we must remember that its formation is but the first of many inter-locking steps forward towards fully implementing the peace agreement.” Once the transitional government is formed, it will need to be empowered to operationalize the institutions of transition, the Special Representative also said.

“Only the full implementation of the peace agreement, with clear peace dividends for the people of South Sudan, will help bring stability to the country,” he concluded.

Human Rights

Also briefing the Council, Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, noted that the initial signing of the peace agreement in August had been met with optimism that the parties to the conflict would abide by their declaration of a permanent ceasefire and halt their attacks on the civilian population.

“However, the reconciliatory rhetoric propagated by Government and opposition actors has deflected from the fact that the parties to the conflict continue to attack, kill, abduct, rape, arbitrarily detain, and forcefully displace civilians, and pillage and destroy their property,” Mr. Šimonovic stressed.

Providing details of attacks on civilians since the signing of the peace agreement, the UN official lamented that new theatres of violence are emerging in areas such as the Equatorias, which had previously been little affected by direct hostilities. He also underscored that an increasing number of armed defence groups had emerged in response to the Government’s “highly militarized approach” to addressing insecurity.

“With the diffusion of armed conflict in all parts of the country, and the creation of local armed groups fighting against Government troops, South Sudan faces the risk of fragmentation and related human rights violations,” he said.

While conflict-related violence remains a serious concern, Mr. Šimonović emphasized that human rights are under attack throughout the country. As UNMISS recently documented in a report, the space for freedom of expression and dissent has narrowed considerably, with various accounts of deliberately silencing dissenting voices including those of human rights defenders and journalists. However, Mr. Šimonović stressed, no action has been taken as of yet.

“Perpetrators of these violations have not been held accountable,” he said. “South Sudan has a long history of forgiveness and amnesties, even for the most serious crimes. To break this longstanding cycle of impunity, and to prevent future violations of international human rights law, we must ensure that the transitional justice mechanisms outlined in the peace agreement are implemented.”

Among his recommendations, Mr. Šimonović urged the parties to the conflict to immediately cease all violations of international and humanitarian law and human rights abuses, and implement the peace agreement “in letter and spirit in a timely manner.” He also urged the Security Council and regional leaders to continue engaging the parties to conflict in this regard.

“It cannot be tolerated that leaders make declarations in Juba, while the hostilities and attacks on the civilian population continue and intensify across the country. Not only is South Sudan on the verge of fragmenting, but the conflict seriously threatens stability in the entire region,” he said.

“The United Nations need to extend all necessary support to the African Union and the Transitional Government of National Unity, once established, to ensure that the cycle of impunity is broken and justice is served,” he concluded.


Ban welcomes progress made by Comorian people in preparations for upcoming elections

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard (file)

20 February 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the progress made by the people of the Comoros in preparations for presidential elections and polls for island governors on Sunday.

In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said that as the nation prepares for primary presidential elections and the first round of elections of the governors of the islands of Grand Comoros, Anjouan and Mohéli on Sunday, the people of the Comoros have the collective responsibility to ensure that the elections are peaceful, credible and transparent.

“The United Nations, in collaboration with other international partners of the Comoros, will continue to support the Comorian people in their efforts to consolidate democracy and peace, and promote socio-economic development,” the UN chief said.


Quality education in mother languages vital to success of 2030 Agenda – UN

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Tapash Paul

21 February 2016 – Mother languages are essential to providing quality education, which in turn supports the achievement of the new global development agenda, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on the International Day established to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.

Marking International Mother Language Day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova emphasized that “mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies.”

She underscored the need to recognize and nurture this power, in order to “leave no one behind” and “craft a more just and sustainable future for all.”

This year’s theme of the Mother Language Day is “quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes,” she said.

Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on quality education and lifelong learning for all, to enable every woman and man to acquire skills, knowledge, and values to become everything they wish and participate fully in their societies, she said, noting that this is especially important for girls and women, as well as minorities, indigenous peoples, and rural populations.

UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action, a road-map to implement the 2030 Agenda, encourages full respect for the use of mother language in teaching and learning, and the promotion and preservation of linguistic diversity, noted Ms. Bokova.

“Multilingualism is essential to drive these objectives forward – it is vital for success across the 2030 Agenda, regarding growth, employment and health, as well as sustainable consumption and production, and climate change,” she said.

UNESCO brings the same focus to advancing linguistic diversity on the Internet, through support to relevant local content as well as media and information literacy, explained Ms. Bokova. Through the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme, UNESCO is highlighting the importance of mother and local languages as channels for safeguarding and sharing indigenous cultures and knowledge, which are vast reservoirs of wisdom.

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in November 1999, and has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.

Quality education in mother languages vital to success of 2030 Agenda – UN

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Tapash Paul

21 February 2016 – Mother languages are essential to providing quality education, which in turn supports the achievement of the new global development agenda, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on the International Day established to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.

Marking International Mother Language Day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova emphasized that “mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies.”

She underscored the need to recognize and nurture this power, in order to “leave no one behind” and “craft a more just and sustainable future for all.”

This year’s theme of the Mother Language Day is “quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes,” she said.

Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on quality education and lifelong learning for all, to enable every woman and man to acquire skills, knowledge, and values to become everything they wish and participate fully in their societies, she said, noting that this is especially important for girls and women, as well as minorities, indigenous peoples, and rural populations.

UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action, a road-map to implement the 2030 Agenda, encourages full respect for the use of mother language in teaching and learning, and the promotion and preservation of linguistic diversity, noted Ms. Bokova.

“Multilingualism is essential to drive these objectives forward – it is vital for success across the 2030 Agenda, regarding growth, employment and health, as well as sustainable consumption and production, and climate change,” she said.

UNESCO brings the same focus to advancing linguistic diversity on the Internet, through support to relevant local content as well as media and information literacy, explained Ms. Bokova. Through the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme, UNESCO is highlighting the importance of mother and local languages as channels for safeguarding and sharing indigenous cultures and knowledge, which are vast reservoirs of wisdom.

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference in November 1999, and has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.

Ban commends peaceful holding of elections in the Central African Republic

In Bangui on 14 February 2016, an electoral officer (right) assists a voter at a polling station for the Central African Republic’s run-off presidential elections. A re-run of the 30 December 2015 legislative elections was also held. UN Photo/Nektarios Markogiannis

21 February 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended the peaceful holding of elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) this past Sunday, calling for the timely holding of the second round of legislative elections to complete the political transition process.

In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban took note of the announcement of the provisional results of the presidential run-off elections held on 14 February in the CAR, congratulating presidential candidate Faustin Archange Touadéra for his victory, according to provisional results.

“The Secretary-General also extends his appreciation to presidential candidate Mr. Anicet Dologuele for the spirit of statesmanship demonstrated through his concession speech,” Mr. Ban said.

The Secretary-General also called on all political leaders and national stakeholders to continue to “maintain the constructive atmosphere and for all actors to maintain their commitments in line with the electoral Code of Conduct.”

Calling on the Transitional Authorities to complete the electoral process through the timely holding of the second round of legislative elections, Mr. Ban reiterated the commitment of the UN to continue providing its full support to the Transitional Authorities to ensure the completion of the political transition process by 31 March.

The UN has played a major role in seeking to restore peace in the CAR, with military and police units from the 11,000-strong UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country (MINUSCA) joining soldiers from the French Sangaris force and local security teams last 30 December at polling stations to ensure a peaceful vote.

After nine months of improved stability in CAR, a new wave of inter-communal violence erupted this past September, killing at least 130 people, injuring 430 others, and triggering an 18 per cent increase in the number of internally displaced persons to 447,500.

Source: United Nations

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Karl William

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