U.N. sacks UNMISS commander as inquiry finds peacekeepers failed to respond to S.Sudan hotel attack

Photo credit: Africanews

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sacked the commander of the UNMISS after a report said it had failed to protect civilians in July.

United Nations peacekeepers known as UNMISS failed to respond to an attack on civilians by South Sudanese government troops at the Hotel Terrain in the capital Juba in July, less than a mile from a U.N. compound, a U.N. inquiry reported on Tuesday.

It found a “lack of preparedness, ineffective command and control and a risk-averse or ‘inward-looking’ posture resulted in a loss of trust and confidence – particularly by the local population and humanitarian agencies – in the will and skill of UNMISS military, (and) police to be proactive and show a determined posture to protect civilians under threat.”

UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric announced, Ban Ki-moon “has asked for the immediate replacement of the force commander” Lt Gen Johnson Mogoa Kimani Ondieki following the damning report

Several aid workers were raped, most robbed or beaten, and some terrorised with mock executions by scores of South Sudanese government troops in Juba, the capital, on 11 July. A local journalist was executed by the troops during the attack, which lasted almost four hours.

One base was only several hundred metres from the Terrain hotel compound, but despite dozens of appeals for help from the besieged aid workers and personal visits from at least one who escaped from the compound, internal UN documents show no help was sent.

The attack came at the end of three days of fighting in Juba between government forces loyal to Salva Kiir, the president, and supporters of Riek Machar, a former rebel leader and the then vice-president.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international campaign group, found evidence that government soldiers raped dozens of women sheltering at a protection of civilians camp at a UN base in Juba who had ventured out in search of food.

Soldiers cheered as they took turns raping a woman or two women in a room, witnesses told the group. In one case of attempted rape, a soldier beat the woman with his gun, then another fired a bullet next to her head.

Soldiers also beat many of the compound residents, sometimes demanding to know their nationalities or affiliations. Satellite dishes, televisions, money, clothes, food, computers and bottles of alcohol were looted.

A member of the UN’s joint operations centre in Juba first received notice of the attack at 3.37pm, minutes after troops entered the compound and some time before they reached apartments protected by bars and metal doors, according to an internal timeline seen by AP. The timeline shows other appeals for help.

Eventually, South Sudanese security forces entered the Terrain and rescued all but three western women and about 16 Terrain staff. A private security firm rescued the rest the next morning.