United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to name New Zealand lawmaker David Shearer as head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, which has been wracked by violence since 2013. Ban notified the 15-member Security Council on Wednesday of his decision to choose Shearer to succeed Ellen Loj of Denmark, who stood down at the end of November. If there are no objections, the council will approve the appointment on Friday.
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Ban said Shearer would bring to the role “extensive political and humanitarian experience.” He is currently New Zealand’s opposition Labour party spokesman for foreign affairs and was Labour party leader in opposition between 2011 and 2013.
Before his election to the New Zealand parliament in 2009, Shearer served as the deputy UN envoy in Iraq, the UN aid chief in the Palestinian territories and the UN humanitarian aid coordinator in Lebanon.
UN peacekeepers have been deployed in South Sudan since 2011, when it gained independence from Sudan. There are some 13,700 U.N. troops and police on the ground.
Political rivalry between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his former deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer, led to civil war in 2013 that has often followed ethnic lines. The pair signed a shaky peace deal last year, but fighting has continued and Machar fled the country in July.
Adama Dieng, U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, told the Security Council last month that he had seen “all the signs that ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians could evolve into genocide if something is not done now to stop it.”
The United States has proposed that the Security Council impose an arms embargo on South Sudan and blacklist opposition figure Riek Machar, South Sudan army chief Paul Malong and South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei.
Washington, however, is struggling to secure the minimum nine votes needed to impose the measures, diplomats said.
The U.S. State Department said on Monday it was alarmed by the violence in South Sudan, where ethnically motivated hate speech, the targeting of civilians and sexual violence are becoming widespread and could not be ignored.
A U.N. inquiry last month found that peacekeepers had failed to respond to an attack on civilians by South Sudanese government troops at the Hotel Terrain in the capital Juba in July, less than a mile from a U.N. compound.