22 December 2012

South Sudan: The Ill-Fated Incident of the UN Chopper in South Sudan Is Regrettable

opinion

Numerous incidences of unintended killings have more often than not been unexceptional across military conflict zones in many parts of the world, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Indochina or the Congo.

Equally, opposing troops in combat areas have calculatedly employed approaches and subterfuges that they thought gave them advantage over their foes. Sudan has not been an exception either, whether in the course of pursuing the intermittent war in Southern Sudan before 2005 or in the case of Sudan's current intra-conflict setting in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions.

It is worth calling to memory that the government of Sudan had in the past disguised its military planes as UN and African Union (AU) aircrafts in order to fly arms into the restive Darfur region and to bomb villages, as reported by Jen Alic [ISN, Centre for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, Switzerland] and published in the New York Times, dated 18 April 2007. This was also contained in a confidential UN report at the time. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/18/world/africa/18sudan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

The dreadful incident that occurred in Jonglei State of South Sudan and took the lives of four Russian crew on board the Mi-8 helicpter is exceedingly regrettable and should be treated as sheer accident without officially assigning culpability to any party.

Being alert and circumspect of Sudan's military camouflage and deception tactics as used in Darfur, the South Sudan army had taken no chances but deemed the UN chopper as being a legitimate military target, given Sudan's simmering tension with the government of the Republic of South Sudan. It was anticipated that Sudan's military could possibly employ its hoary tactic in the World's newest country as applied in Darfur in an attempt to supply armaments and other provisions to the insurgent forces in Jonglei state led by dissident Yau Yau who is fighting against the government of South Sudan at the behest of Sudan's rulers. To prevent the recurrence of such ill-fated episode in the future, both the UN Peace Keeping Mission in South Sudan and the South Sudan army must maintain an enhanced and synchronized communications channel, taking keener note of the military construal of the area.

Furthermore, UNMISS should observe absolute political neutrality. This would create a good working relationship with the host country. I don't think it is plausible for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) or other Parties to hold the South Sudan soldiers involved in the unintended downing of the chopper accountable for an act they considered as falling within the precincts of their duty. The UNSC should instead exert more effort in urging both countries to resolve their problem amicably as provided in the Addis Ababa Agreement and particularly counsel with the government of Sudan to slacken its discourteous and antagonistic disposition towards the Republic of South Sudan.

Former casual lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

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