26 May 2015 – Travelling around South Sudan to see efforts made by the United Nations to protect civilians in the country, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ellen Margrethe Løj, who also heads the UN Mission (UNMISS), visited Bentiu in Unity state this weekend.
“We face a great challenge in ensuring the protection of the hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians throughout South Sudan,” said Ms. Løj during a joint visit with the Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). “UNMISS is deeply troubled by reports of grave violations and abuses of human rights perpetrated during the fighting.”
She said the Mission’s mandate to protect civilians goes beyond the sites run by UNMISS that are dedicated specifically to that purpose and involved tackling crimes committed against civilians anywhere in the country.
“We must be able to document these crimes by being given unimpeded access to areas where violence has occurred,” she said. “I want to reiterate how important it is to hold accountable all those who committed atrocities against civilians during the fighting.”
The Director General of the IOM, William Lacy Swing, accompanied Ms. Løj on the visit, seeing the recent extension of the Mission’s Protection of Civilians site, overseen by the IOM and conducted by a group of UN agencies. The work has included extensive improvements to drainage ahead of the rainy season and the establishment of humanitarian services and shelter.
“This joint visit was made to assess the fate of civilians following the fighting throughout Unity state over the past several weeks,” said Mr. Swing. “The renovation of the site will not only mitigate the deplorable flooding conditions suffered by IPDs (internally displaced persons) during the last rainy season, but will also greatly enhance overall protection at the site.”
Civilians are expected to be relocated in the expanded site in the coming weeks, adding to the over 60,000 civilians already in Protection of Civilian sites in Bentiu and the over 120,000 on sites around South Sudan.
During their stay in Bentiu, Mr. Swing and Ms. Løj also met with Unity state’s acting Governor and its Council of Ministers, as well as with the County Commissioner of Rubkona.