Research Africa > Interview-Conference > South Sudan faces "number of challenges": UN peacekeeping chief

South Sudan faces "number of challenges": UN peacekeeping chief

South Sudan is the newest nation in the world and it is facing "a number of challenges" as it struggles to find its footing in the midst of road blocks that need to be removed to achieve peace and security, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said, "There are incidents involving various ethnic groups and... there are more general issues of a country establishing itself" that come into play.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in July last year and later became the youngest member in the United Nations family. Currently, this new nation is receiving thousands of refugees from neighboring Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile state.

According to a recent statement from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in the last week 2,100 new refugees, 85 percent of them women and children, have left their homes for the Yida settlement located in the Unity State of South Sudan. As of last week, there were 175,668 Sudanese refugees in South Sudan due to fighting and insecurity, said UN officials.

Due to continues fighting between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) and the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) starting from June 2011, the two states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile have thousands of people fleeing the area.

According to Ladsous, this is "one basic issue in the Republic of Sudan" affecting the states of "the Blue Nile and South Kordafan" and it is "a very serious humanitarian situation which has developed because there is a state of hostilities there, between the Armed Forces of Sudan and what we call SPLM-North the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North."

The Sudanese official news agency SUNA reported recently that the rebel groups have hampered the humanitarian workers in delivering assistance to the people in need there, calling for the international community to help.

In response, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations led by Ladsous, as well as the African Union, Arab League and the United Nations have launched a "tripartite appeal" for the government of Sudan to grant humanitarian access to those people suffering from the conflict.

"Unfortunately, this is still not implemented and this seems now to be the highest priority," said Ladsous.

Despite the refugee influx, South Sudan is managing to deal with "more general issues" with the aid of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

UNMISS was set up in July 2011 by the UN Security Council to provide peace and security and to help the new state to consolidate itself and face all the challenges that a new nation has to tackle.

The first few steps include heading off violence in the Jonglei state of South Sudan, which is "a very difficult issue, because you have first an ethnic problem and different tribal groups unknown, who have apparently a tradition of mutual hostility," he said.

As a result, "they are attacking each other" and "unsavory characters" are stirring the matters and unknown structured armed groups are try to use those ethnic factors to create unrest, coupled with the fact the nation is trying to rebuild itself after decades of war and has weapons scattered around the nation.

"So our mission in South Sudan is monitoring very very carefully all that happens. At various stages in the past, it created a number of killings and these are really unacceptable," Ladsous said.

Situations similar to this are "going to change because one of the agreements signed between the two countries, which we hope will start being implemented very soon. There will be what we call a joint border verification monitoring mechanism" which will help keep the peace at border lines, he said.

The agreements Ladsous referred to, are the arrangements reached in September relating to border, security, citizen status, oil, trade and economy during a summit held in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia.

Nonetheless, there still needs to be an agreement on Abyei, an oil-rich area straddling the border between Sudan and South Sudan and claimed by both.

"We need to establish its status, and to establish a local administration, a local police...They still have to achieve that," Ladsous said.

The status of Abyei is one of the outstanding issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which helped bring an end to the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, before the latter's independence last year.

The African Union has set a Dec. 5 deadline for both countries to resolve the final status of Abyei, from which the Sudanese troops withdrew in May this year to end a year-long occupation.

Ladsous said he is optimistic that the September agreements "go a long way towards building or rebuilding confidence between Khartoum and Juba."

"This opens a new page for a relationship, which has to be constructive for two neighboring states, two viable states to live in peace with each other," he said.

The Security Council on Friday voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to extend the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the Ethiopian-led force of nearly 4,000, for six months.

With regard to the council consultation on the situation between Sudan and South Sudan, Ladsous said, "I think those meetings are very good opportunities" and in conjunction with the African Union, "(we can) tell the two parties what we expect from them and in what sort of time frame, so this is very timely and I hope we can make progress."


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