UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has launched an investigation into allegations that the world body’s peacekeepers in South Sudan failed to properly protect the people attacked at a hotel compound in Juba in July. Ban was “concerned about allegations that UNMISS (the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan) did not respond appropriately to prevent this and other grave cases of sexual violence committed in Juba,” the UN chief’s spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to an Associated Press report published Monday, South Sudanese forces gang-raped, beat and robbed aid workers at Hotel Terrain in the capital, Juba, on July 11. The incident occurred three days after fierce fighting erupted near the state house in Juba, where President Salva Kiir and then Vice President Riek Machar were meeting for talks. The violence lasted for several days and killed over 300 people.
According to the UN statement, Ban was “alarmed” by the initial findings of a UN fact-finding probe into the attack and ordered an independent special investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident and assess the overall response by the UNMISS at the time. The UNMISS has been criticized during the past few weeks both for its inability to fully protect civilians when UN sites came under attack in the capital Juba last month, and for allegedly failing to intervene in the Hotel Terrain incident.
On last Friday, the UN Security Council approved to deploy a 4,000-strong protection force to the conflict-ridden country, despite Juba’s strong opposition, authorizing them to exert “all necessary means” to protect the UN personnel and installations there. The UN resolution also calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan if the government blocks the regional force. There will be a total of 17,500 soldiers in South Sudan after the new deployment from a number of African countries.