United Nations peacekeepers in South Sudan (UNMISS) must shore up efforts to protect civilians, Amnesty International said ahead of a 31 July to 2 August country visit by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix.
According to UNMISS, Lacroix will meet with political leaders, humanitarian actors, and internally displaced people (IDPs) - including those sheltering in UNMISS-run sites in Malakal and Bentiu.
"Jean-Pierre Lacroix must highlight the urgent need to protect hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians in South Sudan, tens of thousands of whom are now in UNMISS camps. Having fled hunger, atrocities and ethnically-motivated attacks, they are in dire need of protection and international assistance," said Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International, who visited the Malakal camp in late May.
"UNMISS must live up to its mandate to protect civilians by deploying forces directly to areas where civilians are being displaced, where they remain at ongoing risk, and where humanitarian aid is desperately needed. South Sudan's dire situation should give the international community pause when considering potentially life-threatening cuts to UN peacekeeping operations."
In May and June, Amnesty International researchers visited the areas of South Sudan most heavily impacted by renewed clashes. This included Upper Nile, where virtually the entire Shilluk minority was displaced when government forces burnt, shelled and systematically looted their homes between January and May 2017. Some of them sought refuge in the UNMISS site Lacroix will visit next week in Malakal.
Amnesty International also visited the Central Equatorias region, where starvation and fear stalk the population and around a million people have been displaced by ongoing atrocities. Last week, the organization published a report on how thousands of women and girls in South Sudan are bearing the brunt of sexual violence on a massive scale.
UNMISS should provide regular and timely public reporting on the human rights situation in the country, including on forced displacement and sexual violence.
According to the UN, as of mid-July 1,900,000 people were displaced in South Sudan, including 217,969 seeking UNMISS protection. More than 5.5 million people across the country are facing a food emergency.
A total of 1.9 million South Sudanese refugees have also fled to neighbouring countries.