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UN mounts pressure on South Sudan parties to complete pending tasks
The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom [Photo by Awan Achiek]

UN to cut back operations due to blockade of fuel and other critical imports

The United Nations in South Sudan on Tuesday, said it has started cutting back peacekeeping patrols, and support for peace and electoral processes due to the government blocking UN-contracted trucks carrying fuel and other imports to the country.

This came after the transitional unity government, imposed new taxes on UN-contracted trucks, which contravenes the legal framework governing the conduct of UN operations in the country.

“The United Nations in South Sudan is gravely concerned that the government of South Sudan is impeding the importation of fuel, and other critical supplies by UN-contracted trucks which is disrupting peacekeeping, humanitarian, and development activities in support of communities across the country,” Nicholas Haysom, the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said in a joint statement issued in Juba.

Haysom said that despite the government acknowledging, that the taxation and consequential blocking of the trucks is inconsistent with its obligations, taxes are still being demanded at the point of origin.

“We acknowledge the government’s support in agreeing that the taxation and consequential blocking of the trucks is inconsistent with its obligations, and that they should be immediately released. However, these taxes are still being demanded at the point of origin,” he said.

 Haysom called on the government to urgently enforce the release of the vehicles so that the UN can continue to support South Sudan on its journey from conflict to peace and democracy.

He disclosed that the situation has already had negative impact on the UN’s fuel reserves, which are now running out of essential fuel, adding that the situation will prevent the delivery of millions of dollars of aid during a severe humanitarian crisis, and also divert already stretched donor funding meant to support the most vulnerable.

“Even if the trucks are released today, it will take several weeks for the fuel to arrive in Juba. This has forced the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to start cutting back peacekeeping patrols, suspend road repairs and construction of police stations, schools, and health centers, and reduce support for peace and electoral processes,” Haysom said.

In addition, Haysom said they will cease UN flights and transport for government actors, civil society, and other peace partners.

The UN has also suspended humanitarian aid drops due to the fuel blockade, thus affecting 60,000 people in need.

It warned that further cuts to humanitarian and development assistance are inevitable, including the importation of seeds for this year’s planting season and supplies for the rebuilding of critical infrastructure and institutions ahead of the country’s first elections.

“Humanitarians are doing their utmost to support communities in very difficult circumstances with limited funding. We understand the challenging economic situation in South Sudan, and that makes it even more important that humanitarian funding is not diverted from providing assistance to the most vulnerable,” Anita Kiki Gbeho, the deputy special representative of the secretary-general and humanitarian and resident coordinator in South Sudan said.

Gbeho noted that humanitarians need the full and ongoing support of the government to ensure that they continue to work unhampered by taxes, charges, or other impediments.

Nine million South Sudanese currently need humanitarian assistance, including almost 640,000 people who fled across the border from the Sudan conflict over the past year, according to the UN.

 It disclosed that an average of 1,800 people continue to arrive each day in need of protection and aid, adding that humanitarian funding is at breaking point with only 18 percent received of the 1.8 billion U.S dollars needed this year.

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