UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Some U.N. peacekeeping units and officers who did not respond to a deadly attack on a U.N. base in South Sudan where 48,000 civilians had sought refuge will be sent home, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Wednesday.
At least 25 people were killed in the February attack in the northern city of Malakal, the capital of oil-producing Upper Nile State.
Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous told reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors that while some peacekeepers "reacted very well, some did not."
He said he was not prepared to name the countries whose troops showed "a lack of responsiveness" because two U.N. reports on the incident are still being reviewed by lawyers.
But Human Rights Watch said Wednesday it obtained a summary of the reports which said the response by peacekeepers — from Ethiopia, Rwanda and India — was woefully inadequate.
Ladsous said there was also a lack of understanding of the "rules of engagement" which spell out when soldiers can take military action.
War in South Sudan began in December 2013 when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the fighting and over 2 million displaced. Nearly 200,000 people sought refuge in U.N. peacekeeping bases, Human Rights Watch said.
Kiir and Machar agreed to a coalition government in April but much remains to be done to achieve a peaceful settlement.
According to Human Rights Watch, fighting between youths inside the camp escalated along ethnic lines and armed Dinkas, including government soldiers, forced their way into the camp, shot civilians, and systematically burned homes of Nuer and others as U.N. peacekeepers stood by.
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.
A report by the international medical and humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, also released Tuesday, said the U.N. peacekeeping mission failed to protect civilians, failed to prevent weapons from getting into the Malakal base, and was very slow to respond to the attack in which two of its staff members died.
Ladsous said he has made a series of recommendations to prevent a similar attack.
The U.N. must do "a still better job in training people" as soon as they arrive and make sure that the rules of engagement are understood by everybody "from the top to the last private."