March 9, 2014 (JUBA) – The South Sudan government said on Saturday that the seizure of a UN arms shipment by security agents confirms earlier suspicions over the conduct of “some individuals” within the world body.
- An image circulated on social media reportedly showing weapons seized by Lakes state secutiry officials from UN trucks in Rumbek, on 5 March 2014
South Sudan’s information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, airlifted journalists to Rumbek, the capital of Lakes state, the site where the confiscated arms and ammunitions are being held.
The arms were found inside 12 trucks belonging to the UN Mission in South Sudan en route to Unity state capital Bentiu, and had been declared as “general goods”.
Makuei said the incident represented a “clear violation” of the agreement with the UNMISS on the importation of arms into the country.
UNMISS spokesperson Ariane Quentier said in a statement on Friday that the weapons belonged to Ghanaian peacekeepers deployed to Bentiu, Unity state, saying “wrong labelling” of the containers had resulted in the error, which occurred during loading.
However, the South Sudanese government says it remains unconvinced.
“It is not enough. Some people must answer,” Makuei told reporters in Rumbek on Saturday, without providing detail on what steps the government intends to take.
He accused the UNMISS leadership of having a hidden agenda against his government, which has been engaged in an armed confrontation with opposition forces led by former vice-president Riek Machar since mid-December. The fighting initially flared in Juba after clashes between rival factions of the presidential guards before spreading to the key regions of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.
“We (South Sudan) have no problem with UNMISS, as a UN institution, but our problem is with the personnel who are running UNMISS at present. These are the people who are doing things in bad faith,” Makuei said.
In late January, Makuei said he was denied access to the UN base in Jonglei state capital Bor, accusing the world body of harbouring rebels inside their compound.
The UN said after the incident it was simply upholding its nationwide no weapons policy inside its bases.
The Bor drama between Makuei and UNMISS personnel was broadcast on government TV, with president Salva Kiir accusing UNMISS of running a parallel government, although he later softened his stance, saying the UN remained a friend of South Sudan.
Landmines, RPGs and other riffles found loaded on the 12 trucks were confiscated on Wednesday.
Footage of the arms shipment seized was broadcast by South Sudan Television (SSTV), although the exact quantity of arms has not yet been established.
A government-sponsored public demonstration is planned for Monday in Juba to denounce the “illegal” importation of arms by UN to war zones in South Sudan.