South Sudan expels top UN official

News by Sherwin Bryce-Pease
From SABC News

The relationship between the United Nations and the Government of South Sudan continues to take strain after that country’s cabinet expelled a top ranking UN official to that country.

The UN Secretary General has condemned the ejection of his Deputy Special Representative and the country’s Resident Humanitarian Coordinator after the government claimed Toby Lanzer’s statements had undermined the country’s sovereignty.

UN statements from the Secretary General downwards have been very critical of the leadership on both sides of the country’s protracted civil war.

Lanzer is now persona non grata and the government’s decision stands despite UN protests.

This is a striking decision by the Government of South Sudan given that Lanzer’s term was coming to an end and his replacement had already been announced at the end of May.

Speaking for the Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric, says, “The relationship between the government of South Sudan and the UN is a critical one, obviously we have a very important peacekeeping mission there. The UN is providing critical humanitarian aid and that’s exactly what Mr Lanzer was doing, contacts have continued in various levels, especially on the ground, in an effort to get the government to reverse its decision, which as of now, it has not.”

A recent escalation in fighting in Unity and Upper Nile state has seen a further 100 000 people displaced while 650 000 have been cut off from life-saving aid.

The Security Council continues its deliberations on whether to impose targeted sanctions and assets freezes on certain individuals in South Sudan, said the repoter.

Dujarric went on to speak about the UN’s response to the government of South Sudan saying that they will not reverse the decision and that Toby Lanzer’s utterances and activities which allegedly undermined the nation’s sovereignty .

”The Secretary General and the UN fully back Mr Lanzer in his activities. I think he was essential in the time that he was here in addressing the dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan, ensuring that lifesaving aid would get through, I think almost every day we talk about the situation in South Sudan. We’re talking about more than 1.5 million people internally displaced, 650 000 have no access to humanitarian aid because of the continued fighting and the UN, despite the violence on the ground, is continuing to do its best to deliver lifesaving aid.”

Asked whether the expulsion of Mr Lanzer was not a case of tit for tat I given strongly worded statements that have been very critical of the leadership in South Sudan, Dujarric responded saying, “The UN Secretary General has been very frank in his assessment about what both the president Salva Kiir and Riek Machar need to do, which is to get back to the negotiating table and put the interest of their people first. He said that fairly clearly and we see, as these peace negotiations led by IGAD have not borne fruit, the continuing suffering and these staggering numbers that we talk about everyday here.”

The Security Council continues its deliberations on whether to impose targeted sanctions and assets freezes on certain individuals in South Sudan.

The sanctions regime was established in March but since then, no officials seen to be instrumental in undermining peace have, as yet, been listed.

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