By Jaya Ramachandran
NEW YORK (IDN) - Two of the five veto wielding members of the Security Council, China and Russia, and two from among the ten non-permanent ones, Egypt and Venezuela, abstained from the resolution renewing on August 12 the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) until June 30, 2017, authorizing the expansion of peacekeeping forces and stressing the priority of civilian protection in its mandate.
The Council adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution that also threatened to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan if the government blocks the deployment of a robust force of 4,000 troops.
The representative of the United States, Ambassador David Pressman, said that more than one month had passed since violent clashes had begun in early July and UNMISS must carry out its mandate.
“More time means more suffering,” he said, noting that further delays would not help those waiting for humanitarian aid while facing extraordinary challenges on a daily basis. The regional protection force would use all necessary means to protect civilians until South Sudan’s leaders took necessary steps, he stressed.
All the four abstaining countries faulted that the text of the resolution did not reflect the principles of peace keeping, which included the consent of the South Sudanese authorities. They stressed that consent was a cornerstone of the principles of peacekeeping. Egypt went further and bashed what it called the Council’s "increasing tendency to overstep the established principles governing United Nations peacekeeping operations".
Condemning in the strongest terms the recent fighting in South Sudan's capital Juba, the Council resolution demanded that the Transitional Government of National Unity comply with its international obligations and immediately cease obstructing UNMISS and other humanitarian actors in performing their mandates. It requested that the Secretary-General identify options to enhance the safety and security of Mission personnel.
The Council decided that UNMISS should include a regional protection force, established for an initial period until December 15, 2016, to be based in Juba, tasked with the responsibility of providing a secure environment.
In order to advance cooperation with the Transitional Government and to create an enabling environment for the Agreement’s implementation, the Council authorized the force to use all necessary means to accomplish its mandate.
In adopting the resolution, the Security Council reiterated its “grave alarm and concern” at the political, security, economic, and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The Regional Protection Force will report to the overall UNMISS Force Commander and “be based in Juba, with the responsibility of providing a secure environment in and around Juba”, the resolution stated.
While the four shared in principle the concern of the 11 Security Council members who voted in favour of the resolution, the Council document SC/12475 provides a summary of the reasons of those who preferred to abstain.
Stressing that African people should resolve African issues in an African way, China's Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Liu Jieyi, expressed support for the lead role that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was playing in South Sudan.
As the situation was "still very severe and complicated", the international community must make efforts to bring the parties back to the trajectory of implementing the peace agreement. The regional protection force established by the resolution must conduct full consultations with the Transitional Government of National Unity and obtain its agreement.
Liu said his country had abstained from the vote because the principles of peacekeeping had not been reflected in the Council's text. Noting that the African Union’s Peace and Security Council would hold a conference on August 18 to discuss the deployment of the regional protection force, he expressed hope that all parties at the meeting would reach a consensus on key issues.
Petr Iliichev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN said his delegation had abstained because agreement had not been reached on such key issues as the consent of the South Sudanese authorities.
Stressing that consent was a cornerstone of the principles of peacekeeping and was also critical for practical reasons, he said paragraph 10 of the resolution should be implemented in close cooperation with Juba and called on both the IGAD and the UN to work constructively with the Government.
Paragraph 10 of the resolution stresses the need "to advance in cooperation with the Transitional Government of National Unity the safety and security of the people of South Sudan and to create an enabling environment for implementation of the Agreement".
Egypt's Minister Plentipotentiary at the Permanent Mission to the UN, Ihab Awad said his delegation had abstained due to its reservations over what it saw as the Council’s increasing tendency to overstep the established principles governing United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Recalling the adoption several weeks ago of resolution 2303 (2016), which had authorized the deployment of a police unit in Burundi without that Government’s consent, he stressed that Government consent was a practical and logistical necessity as well as a legal one.
In the context of South Sudan, the Council had adopted a resolution that disregarded the views of the Transitional Government of National Unity as well as the IGAD statement emphasizing coordination with the Government.
The text had considered the South Sudanese Government’s agreement “in principle” but without holding direct consultations, and, in what amounted to extortion, it threatened further measures in case of the Government’s non-compliance.
Expressing support for UMISS and its work, as well as for the efforts of IGAD to bring peace to South Sudan, he said Egypt had attempted to reach a compromise on the text. Regrettably, such last-ditch efforts at achieving unity had not borne fruit.
Swift action in South Sudan was important and it required the utmost care to avoid approaches that could undermine the political process or return the country and the region into a cycle of violence, he added.
Venezuela's representative said he had not voted in favour of the text as it had been drafted without consulting with the Transitional Government. In that regard, the deployment of the regional protection force would worsen the situation on the ground. Calling upon the Council members to respect the principle of sovereignty, he stressed the need for more diplomacy and dialogue and less threats and sanctions.
Taking floor, South Sudan's Permanent Representative Akuei Bona Malwal recalled that his delegation had provided an official response on the mandate adopted on August 12, expressed his rejection of the text as it did not take into account or even consider the views of his Government.
South Sudan had, in good faith, accepted in principle the deployment of the protection force as stated at the second IGAD Plus summit on August 5. His Government did not object to the entire draft of the resolution, but only to the new elements of the protection force and the pre-empting of the meeting between the Government and the Regional Chief of Defence Staff.
The August 5 IGAD communiqué had clearly outlined that the modalities of that force, including its composition, mandate, armament, deployment, timing and funding, would be agreed upon by the Transitional Government of National Unity and the troop-contributing countries, South Sudan's representative said. It was also unfortunate that the resolution contained an annex on an arms embargo, given that the resolution was a peacekeeping text.
“The adoption of this resolution goes against the basic principle of United Nations peacekeeping operations, which is the consent of the main parties to the conflict,” he said concurring with Egypt, adding that it also went against the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States enshrined in the United Nations Charter. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 August 2016]
Photo: Security Council votes to authorize a 4,000-strong regional protection force within the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). UN Photo/Manuel Elias
IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate