South Sudan's opposition forces on Thursday said they were happy with all but one aspect of the new focus announced by the United Nations Security Council for the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS): they don't think it should be protecting oil fields.
Opposition military spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang said in a statement, “We feel it is not the business of UNMISS to protect oil installations, whether the government of South Sudan is capable or not."
“By stepping in to protect oil installations on behalf of the government, UNMISS will have sided with one of the parties to the conflict and inevitably become part of the problem, not solution,” the statement said.
The Security Council earlier this week unanimously adopted a resolution to extend UNMISS's mandate for six months. The resolution changes the focus of the U.N. Mission's mandate from promoting development and nation-building in the young country, to protecting civilians and ending the violence in South Sudan.
Among other duties, it calls on UNMISS "to deter violence against civilians, including foreign nationals... in areas at high risk of conflict including, as appropriate, schools, places of worship, hospitals and the oil installations, in particular when the Government of the Republic of South Sudan is unable or failing to provide such security."
By stepping in to protect oil installations on behalf of the government, UNMISS will have sided with one of the parties to the conflict and inevitably become part of the problem, not solution.
Fighting in South Sudan has been centered in the main oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile, and in Jonglei state. Reports by international news agencies said this week that oil production in South Sudan has fallen by around 30 percent since the fighting began in December.
The South Sudan government said Wednesday it welcomed the extension of the UNMISS mandate.
But South Sudan’s Ambassador to the U.N. Francis Mading Deng, said shifting the focus from capacity-building to protecting civilians could prove to be a mistake.
“Failure to help build a functioning state could lead to serious problems which the United Nations and the international community might be later called upon to help address,” Deng said.
UNMISS has been protecting a steadily rising number of civilians who have fled to its bases around the country in the five-and-a-half months since the violence began. In spite of a ceasefire agreement signed on May 9, there are between 75,000 and 80,000 displaced people currently sheltering inside U.N. bases.