MSF says UN failed to protect civilians in South Sudan

AP News
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Posted: Jun 21, 2016 7:55 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan failed to protect civilians during a February attack on a base in the northern city of Malakal, where at least 25 people were killed, according to the international medical and humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders.

The group, also known as Medecins Sans Frontiers, released a report Tuesday detailing the failures of peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance during the attack at a camp for internally displaced people in Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile State, in which two MSF staff members died.

MSF's report found that despite a strong military presence at the camp, the U.N. mission did not fulfill its mandate to protect civilians and could have averted many of the deaths.

A U.N. report based on an investigation into the attack that was circulated Tuesday found that at least 30 people died in the attack and placed the number of wounded at 123. According to MSF, community leaders put the death toll as high as 65.

"Prior to the attack, they failed to prevent the flow of weapons entering the camp; they chose not to intervene when initial fighting broke out in the camp, and when an attack came from outside the camp they were extremely slow to repel the assault," Raquel Ayora, MSF director of operations, said in a statement.

MSF said a survey found that over 80 percent of the displaced people at the Malakal camp now feel unsafe there and have lost their trust in U.N. peacekeepers since the attack occurred.

In a note to correspondents, the U.N. Secretary General's office blamed the attack on deep-rooted historical land disputes and said it was triggered by two South Sudanese government soldiers trying to smuggle ammunition into the camp.

The U.N. report found there was "confusion with respect to command and control and Rules of Engagement and a lack of coordination" at the time of the attack. The investigation also said there were unrealistic expectations about how much protection the peacekeeping force could provide to the 48,000 internally displaced persons in the camp at the time. The report did not indicate which countries contributed to troops to the peacekeeping mission at the Malakal base.

It said that the U.N. was currently reviewing recommendations made by investigators in order to minimize the recurrence of such incidents in the future.