UNMISS: The dilemma of leaving the refugee camps to the government

Soft structures at the UNMISS base in Bentiu, South Sudan Soft structures at the UNMISS base in Bentiu, South Sudan WO2 Godfrey/MOD

04 September 2020

In the midst of new emergencies and historic concerns, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) will decrease its military presence in the refugee camps

During the two bloody years of civil war, in 2013 the United Nations established UNMISS for the physical protection of the 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) generated by the conflict. Today, however - as stated by UN Special Representative for the Secretariat David Shearer - the decrease in violence and greater stabilisation of the country means that the camps are primarily used to access the services they provide, making the presence of the blue helmets less crucial.

The withdrawal will begin at Bor and Wau and, although the timing is not yet clear, a gradual reduction in UNMISS' presence is also planned for the remaining fields under its administration. Shearer has ensured that humanitarian services and technical support from the mission will continue. These camps will, however, lose the classification of sites for the Protection of Civilians (POC), placing them under the jurisdiction of the Sudanese government for safekeeping. Considering the increase in violence in the eastern region of Jonglei and the recent flooding throughout the country, the withdrawal of troops will also allow UNMISS to redeploy operatives in those areas. Finally, it was stressed that no refugees will be forced to leave the camps and that, in case of new risks, troops will return. 

However, the actual capability of the government to ensure the security of these camps is questionable. On the one hand, it had many problems just with the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement in Jonglei. On the other hand, the Sudanese army's history of violence and harassment is of great concern, which has also led to several protests by the camp’s IDPs in recent days.    


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Author: Matteo Consiglio; Editor: Margherita Curti

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