The Role of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Protecting Civilians

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The protection of civilians (PoC) mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), was established in 2011, coinciding with the country’s independence. Since then, the public discourse on UNMISS has called into question the capacity of the mission to fully meet the expectations created by this mandate in practice. In this chapter the authors explore this issue by investigating the following questions: 1) how can the discrepancy between UNMISS and its mandate be understood within the context of international law? 2) what does the quantitative data available on incidents requiring civilian protection indicate regarding who were the actors involved, the frequency and distribution of events, and the extent of documented fatalities?; 3) what does the public discourse (media accounts, academic publications, as well as UN and third-party investigations) reveal about UNMISS and its PoC mandate? To answer these questions, the authors first present the international legal context in which the mission operates, and identify key areas of concern. They then analyze incidents that took place in the national capital, Juba, as well as the state capitals of Malakal and Bor, to highlight the challenges facing UNMISS in protecting civilians in South Sudan. The authors make use of data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), concentrating on incidents that occurred in South Sudan between 2011 and 2016. This data is then traced to the public discourse that exists on UNMISS and its mandate. The authors find that there remain contradictions between the actions of the peacekeeping force and the mandate of UNMISS, the public expectations of the institution, as well as the resources and personnel provided to support its activities. They conclude by proposing that a path forward be created that involves robust and citizen-centered peacekeeping.

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Christopher Zambakari

Christopher Zambakari is founder of Zambakari Advisory, providing consulting and advisory services to individuals, businesses, and organizations in Africa and in the Middle East. The firm provides strategic analyses and intelligence, technical capacity support with transitional processes, forecasting, and political and economic analysis that minimizes exposure to volatile events.

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