JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said on Friday it has begun withdrawing its troops and police from the protection of civilians camps that continue to shelter more than 180,000 people two years after the end of the country’s civil war.
A statement cited the need to shift peacekeepers to new hotspots in the country where hundreds of people have been killed this year in intercommunal violence, notably Jonglei state.
No one will be forced to leave the camps, the U.N. said, adding that South Sudan’s government will take over responsibility for their security.
For the scores of thousands still sheltering in the crowded U.N. camps, “any threats that existed a few years ago are no longer in existence today,” U.N. special representative David Shearer told reporters.
It is not clear how long the withdrawal will take. The process has begun at the camps in Wau and Bor, the U.N. said. The other camps are in Malakal, Bentiu and the capital, Juba.
South Sudan’s civil war killed nearly 400,000 people and erupted just two years after the world’s youngest country won independence from Sudan. As frantic civilians sought shelter, the U.N. in an unprecedented move threw open its gates and took them in.
The camps have seen attacks over the years, and insecurity outside them became so severe that some women venturing out for wood or other supplies were sexually assaulted.
There has been talk of closing the camps in recent years. Now, instead, the U.N. mission says South Sudan’s police will be responsible for law and order once the U.N. peacekeepers have gone.