22 February 2013

South Sudan: UN Admits Continuous Failure to Detect Murle Attackers

Juba — The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has publicly admitted failure to detect attackers and provide early warning, the special representative of the UN Secretary General, Hilde Johnson, has told the UN radio in Juba.

UNMISS is mandated under Chapter Seven to carry out multiple roles in the new state including helping the government to maintain security through early warning mechanisms and protection of civilians at risk.

However, Hilde on Thursday told the Juba-headquartered UN radio that her organization could not detect the recent movement of rebels of David Yauyau who brutally massacred over 104 Lou-Nuer civilians and 14 SPLA soldiers in Walgak area of Akobo county.

UNMISS also could not track the movement of the attackers and their looted cattle back to Pibor County.

It is not the first time UNMISS failed to detect Murle attackers. When over 600 Lou-Nuer were attacked and killed by Murle heavily armed group in June 2012, UNMISS was also caught by surprise despite its patrolling helicopters that do regular surveillance in Jonglei's hot spots.

The failure by UNMISS to detect Murle attackers every time they attack Dinka Bor or Lou-Nuer has attracted fierce criticisms against the UN organisation by members from other communities in Jonglei, accusing it of bias.

A student at the University of Juba from Lou-Nuer accused the UN of biased position towards Murle when it comes to the inter-communal conflicts in Jonglei.

"When the Lou-Nuer youth were moving to Pibor county to retaliate in December 2011, UNMISS immediately detected their movement and cried to the government to stop the attackers. But when Murle attack us, UNMISS pretends not to detect their movement," lamented the student who asked to remain unanimous.

"The UN is unreasonably siding with the minority Murle against Lou-Nuer majority in Jonglei without considering that the minority Murle are the aggressors and also disobey the government and have formed a rebellion as well," he continued.

The UN is also accused of exaggerating issues about Murle victims but keeping silent when other communities in Jonglei become the victims of Murle aggression.

Hilde explained the challenges her organisation faces including the tricky movement of some attackers such as Murle who move at night and in separate smaller columns only to converge at the point of the attack, unlike the Lou-Nuer who move in several thousands and could easily be detected.

She however said her organization will try its best to improve on early warning mechanisms and protect civilians.

South Sudan's government is likely to consider a military option during this dry season to contain the increasing rebellion in Pibor County as most of Murle youth have now joined the rebellion against the government.

Officials say rebel leader David Yauyau is under the direct influence of Khartoum and is only buying time in order to carry out intensive attacks against the government's positions during the coming wet season.

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