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WAU - 30 May 2012

UNMISS dodges border monitoring task

The head of UN peacekeeping in South Sudan says it is not the responsibility of her mission to monitor border violations. The mission's 155 military observers, 5,544 troops, and 516 police 'do not have the monitoring responsibility' says UN Head of Mission Hilde Johnson.

UNMISS' founding document mandates the mission to help South Sudan to 'establish good relations with its neighbors'. The document, UN Security Council resolution 1996, also mentions three border security agreements. But in remarks in Wau on Monday Johnson suggested that UNMISS cannot monitor the border because the Mission -- unlike its predecessor, UNMIS -- does not operate on both sides of the disputed border with Sudan.

Johnson proposed that negotiations between the two countries in Addis Ababa could result in another international mission with a mandate to monitor both sides of the border. She did not specify whether the international monitoring would be undertaken by a new UN mission, or by the Abyei mission (UNISFA), or by a kind of non-UN force such as the Norwegian-led Joint Military Commission that monitored a ceasefire in the Nuba Mountains in 2002-2005.

'We hope that the talks [in Addis Ababa] will lead to an operationalization of what has already been agreed, namely a joint border verification and monitoring mechanism on the border between the Republic of Sudan and South Sudan with a demilitarized zone of ten kilometres on each side of a determined area on the border. This area of operations will then be demilitarized and will then be an area which will be monitored by both parties supported by international military monitors', said Johnson.

'So hopefully we'll be in a situation where we will have a mission that will report on all incidents wherever they are and whatever side of the border', she noted. 'This also means that UNMISS or the Mission in South Sudan is a mission that is only here to suppport the new and independent country and we do not have the monitoring responsibility.'

Since the break-up of Sudan in July 2011, conflicts broke out along the North-South border in the Safaha area, Heglig, Manj, Jau, and Kafia Kinji, among other areas. Yet UNMISS does not see border monitoring as its own priority. 'However, we do have the responsibility to verify and monitor what happens on South Sudanese territory', Johnson acknowledged.

By Daniel van Oudenaren