The United Nations faces an unprecedented challenge in South Sudan. The country has been devastated by the civil war that broke out in December 2013, just two and a half years after South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan. It is alleged that armed actors on both sides have committed horrific abuses against civilians based on ethnic or political affiliation.
Since the start of the conflict, the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan has worked hard to cope with challenges for which it was not designed or equipped. Peacekeepers have struggled to find a way to protect the thousands of people who have fled to UN peacekeeping bases across the country and stayed there for nearly a year, and the millions more that remain vulnerable to violence outside the reach of peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
This report examines the mounting challenges that the UN faces in South Sudan in the context of the civil war. It focuses on the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, which remains one of the international community’s principal interventions in the country and has the critical capability to protect at least some of the people under threat in the short and medium term.
The people affected by the conflict in South Sudan have high expectations of UNMISS. As one woman who is seeking shelter inside a UN base in Juba asked the report authors, “Will they protect us for the next ten years?” With few safe alternatives in sight, UNMISS will need to prepare to protect those under its watch for some time to come.
The report is a joint endeavor between the Stimson Center, located in Washington, DC, and the Sudd Institute, located in Juba. For two years, Stimson has partnered with Sudd on a project that explores how external protection actors could safely and effectively engage conflict-affected communities in strategies to prevent and respond to deliberate violence. This is the third and final publication in a series of reports on South Sudan resulting from the Stimson-Sudd collaboration. The first two include:
• Perceptions of Security in Aweil North County, South Sudan, July 2014 (Sudd Institute and Stimson Center) and,
• Perceptions of Security Among Internally Displaced Persons in Juba, South Sudan, September 2014 (Stimson Center).