January 22, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudanese government is demanding the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to apologise in written form after it refused to allow the minister of information to enter its compound in Jonglei state capital Bor during a visit on Sunday.
- People seeking shelter at the UNMISS compound in Jonglei capital Bor wait in line as UN military police conduct security checks (Photo courtesy of UNMISS)
Minister Michael Makuei Lueth was heading a visiting delegation of top South Sudanese officials to gain information on the situation in Bor, which was recently recaptured from rebel forces by the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
The dispute reportedly occurred when the minister was refused entry to the UN compound, which is currently providing protection to some 10,000 people have been displaced by recent fighting, because he was accompanied by two armed bodyguards.
During a press briefing in national parliament following the incident, Lueth told journalists that “UNMISS must forward a written apology or face further action against Bor compound manager and the UN secretary-general’s special representative in South Sudan [Hilde Johnson]”.
Lueth’s body guards are reported to have threatened UN staff after they were refused access to the camp, although they eventually withdrew, allowing the group to enter.
UNMISS claims it was simply upholding its no-weapons policy inside the camps.
The incident was captured on camera and broadcast on South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Sunday evening.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon released a statement from New York on Monday condemning the attempted forced entry by government officials. Ban said he was particularly disturbed over threats made to UN staff by armed soldiers.
Relations between UNMISS and South Sudan government have continued to deteriorate in light of the recent incident, with president Salva Kiir accusing the agency of interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
Thousands of political and civil society representatives took to the streets in Juba on Tuesday, accusing Johnson of bias and demanding she be replaced.
The army intelligence chief in Bor claims a number of soldiers dressed in military attire and believed to be rebel fighters were seen at the main gates of the UN compound over the weekend before running inside for safety.
The army chief has demanded that any guns surrendered by rebel fighters must be turned over to the government.
According to the latest UN estimates, almost 500,000 people have been displaced in the fighting which broke out in Juba on 15 December, including 67,400 civilians who are currently sheltering in nine UNMISS protection sites across the country.