UN says South Sudan forces likely behind Malakal attack

AP News
Posted: Aug 05, 2016 4:24 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — South Sudanese government forces were likely behind an attack on a U.N. camp for internally displaced people in order to foster the ethnic reconfiguration of the northern city of Malakal, according to a United Nations Board of Inquiry.

The board's executive summary released Friday blamed a combination of factors, including the political situation, for the February attack which left some 30 people dead and 123 injured.

The summary blamed the government's creation of new states within in South Sudan which members of Shilluk ethinic group perceived as a threat to their historical claims to land east of the White Nile, including Malakal.

"The board also found it highly likely that the attack was planned, or at a minimum supported by, SPLA and/or affiliated militia to facilitate the ethnic reconfiguration of Malakal as the capital of a Dinka state," the summary said, referring to South Sudanese government forces by their initials. South Sudan's President Salva Kiir belongs to the Dinka ethnic group.

The summary did not spare the peacekeeping mission from blame either, stating that it failed to effectively manage the crisis with some units failing to act and a lack of coordination among the mission's civilian, police and military components.

"This failure to manage the crisis, in particular, manifested itself in a lack of urgency to enhance the security ... culminating in the abandoning of sentry posts when armed elements were approaching the berm leaving the PoC (Protection of Civilian) site fully exposed and, ensuring that civilians would be placed in serious risk in the very location to which they had come for protection," the summary said.

The board recommended that the U.N. review the concept of Protection of Civilian sites to avoid the false expectation of protection when it may not be feasible among other things.

South Sudan's civil war began in December 2013 and left tens of thousands dead. A peace deal reached in August 2015 has been threatened regularly by fighting.