In December 2013, South Sudan descended into violence as the nascent state was engulfed by a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and the former Vice President, Riek Machar. Clashes between units of the Presidential Guard spread into major fighting beyond the capital that took on an ethnic dimension. By June 2014, more than 387 000 South Sudanese refugees had fled to neighbouring states, over 1.1 million people were internally displaced and more than 95 000 civilians were sheltering in the bases of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
This is UNMISS in 2014: providing protection and emergency relief to thousands of South Sudanese civilians caught in the middle of an increasingly brutal and ethnicized civil war. It is a challenge of a scale that the Mission was not prepared for. Instead of acting as a primary international partner to the government of South Sudan in an ambitious state building project, UNMISS is contending with a political and security crisis generating dire humanitarian conditions exacerbated by government interference, attacks and looting of supplies, violations of operating principles and an orchestrated public smear campaign. In response to the fundamentally changed context, on 27 May 2014 the Security Council adopted Resolution 2155 extending UNMISS until November 2014 under a restructured mandate intended to quell violence against civilians; monitor and investigate human rights abuses; facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support the implementation of the regionally negotiated ceasefire agreement.
This paper provides an overview of some key challenges that UNMISS has had to deal with since 2011 and outlines some of the issues that the new UNSC mandate for UNMISS will have to come to terms with.