Giffen (2011). Considerations for a New Peacekeeping Operation in South Sudan
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Following the July 9th secession of South Sudan, preventing violence against civilians in the new state and along its northern border will remain a priority — if not the primary challenge — for the international community. South Sudan is rife with conflict. The United Nations’ top aid official in the South reported that 800 people have died in violence, and almost 94,000 people have fled their homes since the start of 2011.1 The secession will raise, not lower, southern Sudanese expectations of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS), despite laws and institutions that are still ill-prepared to meet the challenge. Individuals, communities, militias, and political parties jockeying for resources and political power will be ready and eager to exploit the state’s weaknesses.
The international community recognizes that this fragile internal situation and the ongoing tensions across a new international border with north Sudan constitute an ongoing threat to international peace and security, and that there is a need for the continued presence of an international peacekeeping force or political mission. As such, the UN Secretariat, UNSC Member States, the Government of South Sudan (GOSS), and many humanitarian and human rights NGOs are undertaking assessments, preparing planning documents, and considering the future role of a UN presence in the newest state in Africa. Chief among these considerations is whether and how to prioritize the protection of civilians among many other needs and objectives.
This report provides background on the precarious situation in South Sudan and recommendations in support of a multidimensional peacekeeping operation mandated to protect civilians. The report does not provide a detailed mapping or prioritization of threats in South Sudan, a suggested number of troops, or force lay-down for the operation. Such work is best left to and is currently being undertaken by civilian and military planners and experts within the UN Secretariat and Member States. Rather, it offers operational considerations based on best practices, research, and recent policy developments to help stakeholders engage constructively in debates and discussions about the future operation.
The report concludes that the government of South Sudan initially will be unable or unwilling to provide protection to civilians. In fact, elements of the South Sudan security forces may continue to pose a threat to civilians for some time. A UN peacekeeping operation could reduce the threats to and vulnerabilities of civilians at risk, and in particular contribute to efforts to protect civilians from physical violence. Given the types of threats in South Sudan, a UN peacekeeping operation would need to be multidimensional to provide the broadest spectrum of resources for prevention and response. A political and civilian component could increase the operation’s ability to prevent violence, when used in combination with a capable and robust military component authorized to use force to protect civilians under imminent threat. Although a peacekeeping operation should not be expected to protect all civilians at all times, a multidimensional operation would provide (a) eyes and ears capable of gathering information for prevention and response and (b) a modest, but significant, security force capable of undertaking some operations to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.