South Sudan: Special investigation into Malakal violence completed, UN says


A United Nations independent high-level board of inquiry has completed a special in-depth investigation into how the UN responded in February to deadly violence in a protection of civilians’ site in the town of Malakal, in northern South Sudan.

In a note to correspondents, the Office of the Spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a special investigation and a UN Headquarters board of inquiry were convened to review the circumstances of the violence that erupted in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protection of civilians site in Malakal from February 17 to 18, in which at least 30 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were killed, 123 others were wounded, and a significant portion of the camp was destroyed.

The special investigation, tasked with examining the external factors that led to the incident, has identified several factors as having contributed to the attacks, including deep-rooted historical land disputes, the ‘28 States’ Order and the Eastern Nile State Administrative order of February 1, which dismissed all Shilluk and Nuer civil servants, according to the note.

The investigation determined that the immediate trigger for the attacks was an attempt by two Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers to smuggle ammunition into the site on February 16.

The investigation also concluded that external armed elements, some in SPLA uniforms, entered the protection of civilians’ site during the period and took part in the violence and destruction of parts of the site.

The investigation team requested that the Transitional Government of National Unity hold the individuals responsible accountable for the violence. The team also provided a number of recommendations to the Government, regional and international actors – including the UN – aimed at preventing such attacks in the future, the note said.

A UN Headquarters-led board of inquiry, which was tasked to look into the Mission’s response to the incident, is being finalised. The preliminary report of the board mentions, inter alia, that a number of issues contributed to the incident, according to the note.

On the UNMISS response, in particular, there was confusion with respect to command and control and rules of engagement, and a lack of co-ordination among the various civilian and uniformed peacekeepers in Malakal at the time of the crisis, the note said.

Further to the note, the board also mentioned there were unrealistic expectations as to the level of protection that UNMISS could feasibly provide to the 48 000 internally displaced persons in Malakal at the time of the incident.

UN Headquarters is reviewing a number of recommendations made by the board in order to minimise the recurrence of such incidents, including a review of the concept of protection of civilians’ sites and the performance of troop- and police-contributing countries.

The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations is engaging on the way forward with concerned troop-contributing countries, the note said.

The spokesperson’s office added that Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, will brief the Security Council in this regard.