The UN Mission in South Sudan

Mission Mandate

On July 8, 2011, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1996 authorizing the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). This mission follows the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which was tasked with implementing the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The new mission consists of 7,000 military personnel, 900 police, and appropriate civilian support. In July 11, 2013, the Security Council extended the mission mandate with Resolution 2109 (2013) until July 15, 2014.

The Mission’s mandate includes:

  • Protecting civilians under Chapter VII of the UN Charter;
  • Consolidating peace in South Sudan and fostering of long-term state building and economic development;
  • Advising the government on creating national policies including the constitution and national elections;
  • Promoting an independent media;
  • Promoting the participation of women in decision-making forums;
  • Assisting the government in conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution;
  • Establishing and implementing a mission-wide early-warning system to prevent conflict;
  • Monitoring, investigating, and verifying of human rights abuses; and
  • Strengthening of the security and justice sectors.


On December 15, 2013, clashes broke out between members of the Presidential Guard in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and President Salva Kiir claimed that soldiers loyal to former Deputy President Riek Machar (who Mr. Kiir fired in July) had attempted to seize power in a coup. Violence quickly spread to other regions of South Sudan, thus far affecting six of the country’s 10 states. The last several weeks have also seen increasing signs of ethnically-motivated violence, as members of the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups (from which Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar hail respectively) have targeted each other. With more than 1,000 dead and nearly 200,000 more displaced from their homes, this violence has sparked a serious humanitarian crisis and led to fears that the world’s youngest country may be on the verge of civil war.

On January 23, 2014, with support from the international community and the UN, President Kiir’s government and Vice President Reik Machar and his supporters, the Nuer, signed a cease fire deal in Ethiopia. Despite both sides agreeing to halt the ongoing fighting and ensure that humanitarian aid is accessible for the displaced populations, there is fear that the violence could still escalate.

UNMISS has been on the ground in South Sudan since it became independent in July 2011, working to help promote stability, protect civilians under threat of violence, support efforts to disarm, demobilize, and reintegrate former combatants, and strengthen the nascent country’s criminal justice sector. The demands of the current crisis have overstretched UNMISS’s capabilities even further. As a result, on December 24, 2013, the Security Council voted, with strong U.S. support, to nearly double the mission’s military and police strength to 14,000 uniformed personnel.

How This Affects American Interests

  • UN Humanitarian Efforts. Ongoing fighting and instability has made humanitarian access a serious challenge throughout much of South Sudan. Nevertheless, in spite of security risks and the logistical difficulty of reaching many vulnerable populations, UN humanitarian agencies and their partners have launched a multi-sector aid response that has reached nearly 212,000 displaced South Sudanese so far. The World Food Program (WFP), for example, is currently providing much-needed food assistance to tens of thousands of displaced South Sudanese civilians both on and off UN bases, and is working to screen children who are vulnerable to severe malnutrition. For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing clean water  to the displaced and constructing latrines at UNMISS bases sheltering them in order to prevent the spread of disease. UNICEF has also provided essential medical supplies to support emergency health programs in areas of the country affected by fighting, and is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to vaccinate children at displacement camps against measles and polio. Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing shelter and other critical relief items to South Sudanese civilians who have been forced to flee their homes, including blankets, plastic sheeting, kitchen equipment, mosquito nets, and soap. Currently over 85,000 displaced South Sudanese are seeking refuge at UN bases across the country. The recent cease fire between President Kiir and Vice President Machar’s supporters calls for supply routes throughout the country to be opened in order to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its proper destinations. However, ongoing violence restricts and threatens the opening of such routes.

  • Promotes stability in South Sudan. The U.S. deployed five military advisors to support UNMISS in strategic planning to prevent further violence in the region. UNMISS stationed UN police in 10 state capitals and 23 counties and established 15 permanent company-operating bases in all states but one. With UNMISS and U.S. support, South Sudan has seen the number of civilian casualties decrease since independence. UNMISS also develops South Sudan’s security institutions and policies, preparing them to eventually function independently.

  • Trains the Police Force. UNMISS provides training and technical support for South Sudanese law enforcement, having instructed nearly 3,500 police officers and 35 prison managers. To enhance transparency and accountability, the mission developed a screening and registration process for officers, and to date has registered over 49,000 officers in an electronic database.

  • Supports disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program (DDR). Through DDR, ex-combatants voluntarily surrender their weapons and receive rehabilitation, counseling, and skills-training. With UNMISS support, these efforts have resulted in the collection of 10,400 weapons and the demobilization of 12,525 combatants. Specifically, UNMISS monitors DDR to ensure that all weapons are collected voluntarily. UNMISS also observes the progress of SPLA’s Action Plan to remove all child soldiers from its ranks.

Ongoing Challenges

  • Current Crisis.  Since fighting erupted on December 15, 2013, more than 400,000 South Sudanese citizens have become displaced. Over 85,000 displaced South Sudanese civilians are seeking refuge at UN bases across the country. More than 86,000 South Sudanese have crossed into refugee camps in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. Health agencies have reported that over 2,500 people of have been victims of gunshot wounds, and over 10,000 are feared dead. The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and UN humanitarian agencies have been working with the U.S. and other key stakeholders in the international community to respond to the myriad security and aid-related challenges posed by the current conflict. UNMISS will continue to work to ensure safety and stability following the January 23rd cease-fire agreement.

  • Past and Ongoing Violence.  Tensions in South Sudan have persisted since its inception in 2009, with armed groups threatening peace and stability within the country. For example, the militia group led by David Yau Yau has been a major source of violence throughout South Sudan, as they have targeted and killed civilians, government troops, and UN peacekeepers. In April 2013, Yau Yau’s rebels ambushed a UN peacekeeping convoy in Jonglei State, killing five Indian peacekeepers and seven local staff members. The overall lack of a legal system and framework for protection within South Sudan has allowed for a significant amount of inter-communal violence to occur. Throughout 2013 tens of thousands of people were displaced as a result of clashes between state and non-state armed actors in Jonglei State’s Pibor County. Cattle raiding has developed into a common practice in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap and other states. A background of violence and a weak legal system has contributed to the spread of conflict throughout South Sudan, and poses an ongoing threat to its stability and security.

  • Logistical Challenges. The peacekeeping force has faced numerous logistical and capacity-related challenges throughout its deployment. One of the most significant of these is its size: as part of its original mandate for UNMISS, the UN Security Council authorized 7,900 soldiers and police personnel to cover a vast, underdeveloped country the size of France that contains only 68 miles of paved roads. For the sake of comparison, NATO sent nearly 50,000 soldiers to Kosovo, a territory smaller than Delaware, following the withdrawal of Serbian military forces in 1999. In addition, the wet season renders dirt roads into channels of mud eight months of the year throughout most of the country. The mission has to rely on modest air services. For more than a year, UNMISS lacked military helicopters.

*Last Updated January 2014

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