UN council extends South Sudan mission

July 5, 2012 - 10:36 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Thursday extended the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for another year, in a resolution that calls on the young nation to take more responsibility for protecting its civilians.

As South Sudan's first birthday approaches on Monday, the council also demanded that it and Sudan immediately cease all hostilities and human rights abuses against civilians.

The U.N. refugee agency, meanwhile, has also cast a pall over the coming milestone with warnings that South Sudan's humanitarian situation was reaching a breaking point.

Nearly a year ago, the council authorized the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, known as UNMISS, after the nation finally gained independence from Sudan. The force of more than 5,000 troops and hundreds of police and U.N. civilian staff was sent to protect civilians and help improve security after decades of war killed 2 million people.

Since then, however, the neighboring nations have only drawn closer to full-scale war over unresolved issues of oil revenues and their disputed border.

While the council called on South Sudan to step up its own security efforts, Sudan's U.N. Ambassador, Francis Nazario, called on the council to beef up the U.N. mission.

"The government of South Sudan would like to see UNMISS doing much more than it did last year, and we will definitely call for a mandate to give it more powers," Nazario said.

On Wednesday, the U.N. refugees commissioner, Antonio Guterres, warned that humanitarian efforts in South Sudan were in a state of crisis, as refugees flee Sudan's turbulent Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. The U.N. says 175,000 refugees have fled to South Sudan, most in remote areas that lack basic infrastructure.

"The combination of difficult and dangerous conditions in South Sudan and the huge numbers of refugees arriving there mean our operations are severely stretched," Guterres said. "And people are still arriving every day, many of them malnourished, and including unaccompanied children in groups."

In May, the Security Council called for an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on the status of the disputed, oil-rich border region of Abyei and extended the U.N.'s separate mission there by six months.

The U.N. Interim Security Force for Abyei, which includes about 4,000 peacekeepers, was created last year after Sudan seized control of Abyei before South Sudan gained independence.

The council also threatened in May to impose nonmilitary sanctions against both Sudans if they didn't stop fighting and return to negotiations. Negotiations between the Sudans recently resumed.