The UN peacekeeping mission to South Sudan failed to protect civilians sheltering at a UN camp in the northern town of Malakal where inter-ethnic clashes broke out in February, according to a report by a UN board of inquiry released Friday.
About 30 people died and 120 were injured when fighting broke out between youths from the Shilluk and Dinka ethnic groups living at the UN protection of civilians site that was housing 48,000 internally displaced people at the time.
The review found that the UN mission failed "at all levels ... to manage the crisis effectively, leading to the negative effects of the incident."
The UN mission's failure to respond to the crisis culminated in the "abandoning of sentry posts when armed elements were approaching the berm ... ensuring that civilians would be placed in serious risk in the very location to which they had come for protection," the report concluded.
The review notes that it was an "unrealistic expectation" that the UN could protect close to 50,000 people living at a congested camp where civilians could move freely and weapons could be easily smuggled in.
The inquiry also found that it was "highly likely" that the attack was planned or at least supported by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which is aligned with the South Sudanese government.
The board of inquiry called on the UN to review the concept of protection of civilian sites "to avoid creation of false expectations" and to strengthen security operations around such sites.