Business, Finance & Economics

South Sudan: Is Russia to blame for the most recent massacre?


People stand around an helicotper provided by the UN Mission in South Sudan for the World Food Program in Pibor, South Sudan's Jonglei state, on January 12, 2012.


Hannah Mcneish

NAIROBI, Kenya — Over the New Year there was a massacre in a remote part of South Sudan. It was part of a long-standing feud between the Lou-Nuer and Murle people who traditionally raid one another's cattle. But this one was bad, leaving probably hundreds and possibly thousands dead.

Read more from GlobalPost here: South Sudan: 51 killed in latest attacks in Jonglei

The United Nations managed to get 400 peacekeepers into the town of Pibor ahead of the onslaught by an army of Lou-Nuer, but it was not enough to prevent the killing.

Clearly, something went wrong.

Read more from GlobalPost here: South Sudan News: UN humanitarian operation launched

Speaking at a conference in New York, secretary-general Ban Ki-moon explained what had happened.

"Consider the recent violence in South Sudan. We saw it coming weeks before."

"Yet we were not able to stop it - unfortunately. Nor was the government, which like others has primary responsibility for protecting its citizens."

"The reason was painfully simple: we were denied the use of necessary resources ... in particular helicopters that would have given us mobility to bring all the UN Peacekeepers where there are no roads except by air mobility."

"At the critical moment, I was reduced to begging for replacements from neighboring countries and missions. With limited resources, we tried our best."

It is an incredible admission, but why were the resources limited?

Last year Russia withdrew four of the eight helicopters that it provided to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), amid fears regarding the security of the Russian crews who had come under fire. The other four were grounded, meaning the UN was unable to get enough peacekeepers to Pibor in time.

The row between Russia and the UN has escalated with Moscow threatening to withdraw its support for the South Sudan mission altogether.