International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

UN Acting as “Parallel Government” in South Sudan?


A recent BBC article reports that South Sudan President Salva Kiir has publicly accused the UN peacekeeping mission of hiding rebels and guns at their camps following the rebel’s capture of Bor over the weekend. South Sudanese forces led by the information minister attempted to gain access to the UN base in search of armed rebels, insisting that the UN should allow the government to search for weapons and rebels within the camps and demanding Unmiss (UN Missionaries) hand over any weapons or government vehicles they have acquired.


The UN has increased its presence in the region as the political dispute between Mr. Kiir and former deputy Riek Machar has escalated into full-scale conflict since mid-December. More than 500,000 people have been displaced (with approximately 70,000 residing in UN bases), and well over 1,000 civilians have been killed. The UN also states both government soldiers and rebels are guilty of committing atrocities that include ethnic killings, and fervidly denies any claims to holding weapons and knowingly sheltering rebels.

Based on the swiftly rising civilian death toll, in addition to threat of widespread ethnic killing, UN forces are obliged to maintain their presence in the region in order to protect the human rights of civilians. Persistent efforts of South Sudan forces to enter the UN base are additionally quite worrisome given the lack of cordiality between South Sudan forces and UN peacekeepers. While the UN insists of their neutrality, Mr. Kiir’s claims of the UN undermining the South Sudan government are toxic, heightening tensions between the two groups. To what extent is the UN capable of holding off South Sudan forces from entering their base? How is the international community expected to react to these repeated violations of South Sudan against their agreement with the UN?

Some scholars argue that this violence spread at such a fast rate due to the fact that there was no accountability for the 1991 massacres at the hands of Riek Machar’s revolt. Furthermore, both parties contest that their opponents are responsible for all atrocities committed during the current conflict. Thus, if/when this conflict ends, is it possible for reconciliation to be reached within victim communities despite a history of lacking accountability? Even if this conflict results in an international tribunals, would it even be regarded as legitimate by the region? I ask this based upon the inevitable claims of “victor’s justice” by the losing party, in addition to the high tensions already present between the UN and the Sudanese government.


2 responses to “UN Acting as “Parallel Government” in South Sudan?

  1. palomatraveler January 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    This recent event calls into question the role of the UN. Personally, I do not think the UN is completely capable of offering sustained protection to Sudanese civilians. I do honor the UN’s decision to open its bases, and believe by doing so it is learning from past failings (Balkan Wars, Rwanda, ect) and protecting civilians regardless of ethnicity/affiliation. As for South Sudan’s president accusing the UN of acting like a “parallel government” I do not think peace can occur if one group believes an International Community such as the UN to be biased towards one group ie Sudanese government believes the UN is harboring rebels at its base. In general two wrongs do not make a right, it was wrong for the South Sudanese government to violate their agreement with the UN, and the way in which the UN opened its bases seemed bias to the Sudanese government. First and foremost the South Sudanese must sit together and resolve their internal problems. The goal of the UN should be to make sure that conversation happens and human rights can be respected.

  2. gracen0te5 February 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    I agree with the response above.

    The UN does not seem to have the capabilities of holding off South Sudan beyond accountability. Even with adoption of a series of UN resolutions, including Resolution 1593, to what extent can ICC consider the proceedings conducted by Sudan to be for the purpose of shielding perpetrators? Also, how can we measure the effectiveness of national court systems in Sudan despite ignoring human rights abuses?

    I think it’s also important to consider the powers of Sudan’s leaders and the powers that leaders have in the issues mentioned in the BBC article. Sudan has been under a state of emergency since 1999 with important constitutional guarantees suspended and numerous laws adopted by executive degree. This state has expanded the powers of the president considerably, allowing him to rule through decrees and suspend powers related to the administration of the country. This also becomes a major obstacle for a functioning criminal justice system. This raises valid concerns with the compatibility of Sudanese laws with international standards.

    The Sudanese government has established a number of Special Courts of Darfur, a national commission of inquiry, ad hoc committees, and committees against rape, but when it comes to UN involvement, the UN would probably not be more than “a presence” in the region if Sudan does not manage its internal problems. There would be difficulty exercising uncontested jurisdiction over cases that are of interest to the Court but without sufficient investigation and prosecution to have cases fall under ICC jurisdiction.

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