April 9, 2013 (JUBA) – A rebel group operating in South Sudan’s Jonglei state has issued a statement denying its involvement in Tuesday’s killing of United Nations peacekeepers and civilians in the region.
- South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army rebels (AFP)
The UN mission in the country said at least five Indian peacekeepers, two of its staff and five civilians were killed near Gumuruk settlement in Pibor County, while some UN staff remained unaccounted for.
Although the UN blamed unidentified armed groups over the attack, the military was quick to point fingers at rebel groups operating in remote parts of Jonglei.
However, South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army (SSDM/A); a rebel group fighting the Juba government, denies any involvement in the incident, describing as "false" any accusations against its forces.
“Such an accusation is blatantly unfounded and it was designed to tarnish the image of our gallant forces that are fighting to build and consolidate independent institutions which shall safeguard the rule of law, freedoms, and equity in the Republic of South Sudan,” the group said in a statement.
The rebel reaction is contained in a 9 April statement, issued by one Peter Konyi Kubrin, allegedly the movement spokesperson.
The rebels insist they are not at war with the UN and that its forces have never attacked the latter, since April, last year.
“The allegations of the regime in Juba that falsely accused our forces are unfounded. We encourage the UNMISS to launch a thorough investigation which is not based on preconceived notions or bias against our forces to support the propaganda of the regime in Juba,” the statement reads in part.
The group also lauded the UN mission for its protection of civilians’ role in the country, but urged to mission to read SSDM/A’s “Jebel Boma Declaration” and “manifesto”.
The UN, it stressed, "should know that our movement is a liberation struggle led by intellectuals whose aims are to replace the corrupt and inefficient clique regime in Juba by a transparent and accountable transitional government agreed upon by all the political forces in South Sudan.”
The regime in Juba, the group alleges, has “miserably failed in meeting the basic function of any government; provision of personal and collective security for its citizens,” citing the rampant inter-tribal conflicts, which have characterized the country since its July 2011 independence.
The spokesperson of South Sudan army (SPLA), Phillip Aguer, dismissed the SSDM/A statement as “mere propaganda.”
He denied southern military involvement in Tuesday’s attack, saying the army knows very well that the mission is in the country with a mandate that provides support to the government.
“Our forces in Jonglei have managed to restore the situation. It is now under control. It is duty of the government to bring peace so that the country enjoys stability and will will put to an end these criminal activities. The SPLA is capable of handling it”, Aguer told reporters Tuesday.
Meanwhile, members of the UN Security Council, its Secretary General and the head of UNMISS have all condemned the attack, calling for thorough investigations by South Sudan government into the matter.