Indian army colonel in South Sudan injured in UN peace-keeping operation

As the war between South and North Sudan rages on, woefully under-equipped UN peace-keepers are under extreme pressure. An Indian army colonel was injured in a skirmish earlier today.
Updated on May 29, 2015 02:01 PM IST
Copy Link
IANS | By, South Sudan

As UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan struggle with inadequate resources and widening mandates, an Indian Army colonel was injured in crossfire between two warring groups, according to sources in New York.

They said the officer was injured in the region of the back of the neck when a camp in Malakal was hit. Indian peacekeepers are are deployed there to protect several thousand refugees. The wound is not believed to be serious.

The Secretary General's spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, confirmed that a peacekeeper was injured but could not identify him or his nationality. "The UN Mission reports new firing outside of its compound in Malakal," he said. "One peacekeeper was injured."

India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji had warned the Security Council last week about the deteriorating situation there in two letters to its president, Raimonda Murmokaite that IANS has seen.

On May 20, he wrote, "It is extremely important that the Security Council take urgent action to prevent any casualties and collateral damage with regard to the Indian troops and internally displaced people (IDPs)" or refugees.

The attack occurred hours before the Security Council voted to extend the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) till November end and authorised it "to use all necessary means" to protect civilians "irrespective of the source of such violence."

On Friday, the UN observes the International Day of Peacekeepers.

Of the 2,000 Indian troops in UNMISS, more than 800 are based in Malakal, situated in South Sudan's oil-rich Upper Nile state that is sandwiched between Sudan and Ethiopia. The region has been wracked by fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and supporters of former vice president Riek Machar Teny of Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).

The fighting escalated about a week ago when Major General Johnson Olony defected from the government side to Riek Machar's, taking with him a large troop contigent. Kiir retaliated by moving reinforcements to the area.

Soon afterwards Mukerji wrote to Murmokaite, "The threat is both extremely grave and imminent" and asked for assurance that "every measure feasible will be taken to ensure that casualties and damage are avoided."

His fears are underscored by the killing of seven Indian army personnel in two separate incidents in 2013 in South Sudan.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the situation in South Sudan said that the a political solution to the conflict was essential to bring peace to the area and the peacekeeping operation could not by itself achieve that. One of them paraphrased UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's quip, "You can't keep peace if there is no peace" to emphasise the point.

Ban in a report to the Security Council last month conceded that there was a "lack of progress towards securing a peaceful settlement of the conflict."

The sources faulted the Security Council, which does not adequately consult with troop-contributors, for not taking stronger measures to push the warring sides to a political settlement.

The peacemaking process has virtually been outsourced to a seven-nation East African organisation, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which has so far failed to broker an enforceable peace.

Earlier this month, IGAD admitted it was "deeply frustrated by the spread of violence to Upper Nile."

Ban has also not given the South Sudan crisis the same level of attention as he has to others like Yemen.

Asked Thursday if the Ban plans to reinvigorate the peace process there, his spokesperson, Dujarric, deferred to IGAD, saying, "It's something that IGAD continues to be in the lead. We are supportive of that process."

Although the Security Council adopted the 4,600-word resolution backing the peacekeeping mission and emphasising its mission to protect civilians, the operations are hamstrung by lack of resources and logistical foresight, sources familiar with UNMISS operations said. This makes the peacekeepers vulnerable to attacks and the UN efforts there ineffective.

Recounting the conditions under which the Indian peacekeepers operate, a source who has seen the operations first hand, said that although the Security Council tells them "to use all necessary means," they are virtual sitting ducks when they come under crossfire.

This is because they cannot retaliate as that would lead to direct attacks that could endanger the civilians they are protecting. "Best bet is to lie low and not do anything unless they are directly attacked," the source said.

As a protection against mortar and heavy weapon fire, they need bunker-like defensive structure, which the UN and South Sudan government do not want built as that would appear to make the UN compounds sheltering the refugees permanent installations, the source said.

Due to lack of planning and logistics, most of the 5,000 personnel brought in during the troop surge authorised by the Security Council last year are still sitting in Juba, the country's capital in the south instead of being deployed to areas needing them, the source said.

As result the peacekeepers in the conflict areas are stretched thin and pinned down guarding the refugees, rather than going out on confidence-building patrols. The patrols, undertaken on the ground or from the air, are an important element of the Security Council mandate because they also bring along staff from other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for outreach activities.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping hosts the 14th Brics Summit via video link in Beijing, on Thursday. (AP)

    China criticises blocs, invites 13 countries to Brics-related event

    Besides the leaders of the Brics countries, China had invited leaders of 13 countries for the event, seen to be Beijing's push to expand the five-member bloc. It was a mix of countries: Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Malaysia and Thailand.

  • A girl lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (AFP)

    US Congress passes rare bipartisan gun legislation

    In a rare political and legislative breakthrough, sparked by a surge in mass shootings across the country, the United States Congress, on a broadly bipartisan basis, passed a set of limited gun control measures on Friday. The Congressional push comes even as US Supreme Court limited the right of states to restrict people from carrying guns in public without special permit, striking down a New York law.

  •  (AFP)

    Roe v Wade: US top court ends 50 yrs of federal abortion rights

    In a judgment that will transform America's political, legal and social landscape, the United States' (US) Supreme Court, on Friday, struck down the historic Roe v Wade judgment that had institutionalised abortion-related protections in the country. Minutes after the judgment, Missouri became the first American state to ban abortion. Case and judgment The judgment was triggered by a case which involved a Mississippi legislation that banned abortion beyond 15 weeks.

  • US President Joe Biden addresses the nation at the White House in Washington, DC following the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

    ‘Horrific’, ‘heartbroken’: Biden, Obama, others react to abortion ruling

    Trudeau called the abortion ruling 'sad day for the court and for the country', saying the Supreme Court 'took' right away. “My heart goes out to the millions of American women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion. I can't imagine the fear and anger you are feeling right now,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter. Here are some of the reactions on the US Supreme Court ruling.

  • Anti-abortion demonstrators celebrate outside the US Supreme Court as the court rules in the Dobbs v Women’s Health Organization abortion case.

    Abortion access threatened in these US states after Supreme Court ruling

    The US Supreme Court's overturning of America's constitutional right to abortion gives all 50 states the freedom to ban the procedure, with nearly half expected to do so in some form. Idaho provides exceptions for rape or incest but Kentucky only does so if the pregnant woman's life is in danger. Laws in Louisiana could see health professionals jailed for up to ten years for carrying out in abortions. In Missouri, it's 15 years.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Saturday, June 25, 2022