January 24, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has met with the head of the United Nations mission in the country for the first time since accusing the agency of interfering in the new nation’s internal affairs.
- UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson has met with South Sudanese president Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba, after her agency was accused of overstepping its role (FILE)
In a stinging rebuke earlier this week, Kiir accused the world body of seeking to run a parallel government alongside his administration.
Relations were further strained after the minister of information was refused entry to the UN compound in Jonglei state capital Bor during an official visit on Sunday, reportedly because he was accompanied by two armed bodyguards.
The incident was captured on camera and broadcast on South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Sunday evening, with the South Sudanese government demanding a written apology from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon released a statement from New York on Monday condemning the attempted forced entry by government officials, saying UN staff had been threatened by armed soldiers.
The incident in Bor sparked protests in the capital, Juba, with thousands of political and civil society representatives taking to the streets on Tuesday, accusing UNMISS head Hilde Johnson of bias and demanding she be replaced.
However, in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Friday, South Sudanese foreign affairs minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin said the government continued to work in partnership with UNMISS.
“The demonstration by the citizens should be considered as part of the democratic expression about anything they wanted to draw the attention of all the stakeholders. It was not an attack on the United Nations. The government remains committed to provide protection to staff of the United Nations Mission is South Sudan”, he said.
Marial said the meeting between the president and Johnson had focused on ways to “amicably” resolve issues between the two sides, so as to avoid further misunderstandings.
UNMISS bases across the country are currently sheltering some 73,000 civilians, who have been forced to flee their homes after violence erupted in Juba on 15 December before spreading to other regions.
In New York the UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a statement reiterating its "unwavering support for UNMISS" and underlining its vital mission on behalf of the international community to protect civilians in South Sudan.
UNSC members further expressed their appreciation for UNMISS personnel, "who put their own lives at risk daily pursuing this mandate, and for the 67 troop- and police-contributing countries whose forces continue to perform admirably under difficult circumstances", emphasised the statement.