Tomorrow, the UN Security Council will vote on a new Mission to South Sudan. The current Mission (UNMIS) has to leave the country (North Sudan) by Saturday July 9 when the Republic of South Sudan finally comes into being. Different agencies working in Sudan have to the last few days try to put up a case for a new revitalized force which would have a mandate to enforce peace given the current security situation in border states as well as Abyei and South Kordofan.
The situation is tense as the inevitable divorce approaches. The northern army has bee accused of ethnic cleasing in Abyei by many human rights campaigners. Such charges are not baseless. According to OCHA, in 2009 over 350,000 people were displaced by violence and 2,500 killed in southern Sudan.
By mid-June 2011 alone, over 300 conflict incidents had taken place, with over 1,800 people killed and 264,000 people displaced in southern Sudan. This means more people in South Sudan have been killed in the first months of 2011 (over 1800) than in the whole of 2010 (less than 1000) most of them through violence in the North-South border areas, deadly cattle raids, inter-communal violence and clashes between southern rebels and the SPLA – South Sudan national army.
Violence in recent weeks in Abyei, Southern Kordofan and across southern Sudan has also forced over 180,000 people to flee their homes, according to UN reports. The UN has called on the Security Council to send a strengthened Mission to the border as the situation is very tense and the country needs all the support it can to protect its population. The UN asked for 7.000 troops but reports indicate talks are going very badly as the UK, US and France are trying to trim the size of the Mission, its budget and its staff.
Kirsten Hagon, Head of Oxfam’s New York Office yesterday said:
“Hundreds of billions of dollars has been spent in Afghanistan and more recently over US$ 1 billion was spent in three months in Libya. That is the cost of the current UN mission in Sudan for a whole year. Southern Sudanese deserve to get the full backing of the UN Security
Oxfam warned that taking the cheap option would cost lives and risks destabilizing the region. The agency said inadequate numbers of peacekeepers for the next mission in South Sudan risk endangering thousands of lives and future stability.
While the UN peacekepers alone cannot bring the much needed peace to people living in the border states and regions like Abyei and South Kordofan, failure to fully fund and resource the Mission – including by slashing troop or civilian staffing numbers due to cost concerns – would undermine the progress that has been made over the past six years.
“If there was ever a time for the Security Council and countries that contribute to peace keeping to support the people of Sudan, it is now. Violence is rising and this isn’t the time to go cheap by cutting on the budget of the future UN mission, on the number of boots on the ground or the number of civilian staff. They must walk the talk and provide their strong backing in a time of optimism but also extreme tension for the people of South Sudan,” said Hagon.
As the budget for the Sudan Mission is to be slashed we see realized that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, who will decide the future of this mission, spent in 2010 alone a staggering US$ 996 billion on military expenditure while the annual UN Peacekeeping budget is roughly $9 billion.
Beyond the funding, the issues that have marred the UNMIS1 should be avoided.
Like Tendai Marima is a Zimbabwean blogger noted there have been issues with the intervention of the peacekeepers.
“In Abyei, Zambian peacekeepers preferred to hide out in their rooms for two days rather than go on patrol and protect civilians caught up in the conflict. Similarly in South Kordofan, Egyptian troops are reportedly occasionally reluctant to carry out their duties.”
Such conduct must be checked if the UNMIS2 is to make any impact but for now the UN Security Council must deliver a well sized and well budgeted force to protect civilians in Sudan.