March 21, 2014 (JUBA) – The United Nations announced Friday that its team had completed investigations into an incident in which South Sudanese security officials in Lake state seized trucks loaded with weapons destined for Unity state.
- Weapons seized by Lakes state secutiry officials from UN trucks in Rumbek, March 5, 2014 (social media photos)
"We have an update from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations on the work of the High Level Investigation Team that had been immediately sent to South Sudan to establish the facts concerning the incident on 5 March 2014,” said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the secretary general.
“The team has been on the ground for a week and has met Government officials, including at Rumbek [Lakes state capital]. It has also had extensive meetings with UNMISS staff and staff of other UN Missions from whence the cargo was shipped,” he added.
The UN team reportedly received constant cooperation from South Sudan government throughout its investigation mission.
“The team has now completed its work and is in the process of compiling its report, which will address why cargo containing weapons and ammunition belonging to and for the use of the Ghanaian Battalion was inadequately labelled and transported from Juba to Bentiu by road, contrary to agreed protocol with the Government of South Sudan,” Haq said Friday.
Its preliminary analysis and conclusions, he added, have been discussed with the Government of South Sudan and will be submitted to UN senior officials in New York.
“A series of measures, which will be communicated to the government of South Sudan, will be put in place to avoid any repetition of this error,” he stressed.
Relations between the Juba and the world body worsened in recent months after President Salva Kiir accused the latter of over-stepping its mandate and acting like a “parallel government”.
The dispute, however, deepened when 11 UN trucks were intercepted by South Sudanese authorities in Lakes state carrying a weapons cargo, triggering protests in the capital, Juba.
The UN maintained the weapons and ammunition belong to the newly arrived Ghanaian peacekeeping contingent, and had been inadvertently transported by road rather than by air after a labelling “error”.
But this has not stopped mounting criticism of the mission by South Sudanese on social media, with Hilde Johnson, the mission’s Norwegian head, being singled out.
The Ghanaian UN force commander has firmly denied claims the weapons shipment had been intended to supply rebel troops opposed to the central government.
The Norwegian government, last week, expressed strong disappointment with South Sudan government over its “unreasonable and groundless accusations” that the UN mission in the country was aiding a rebellion that began almost three months ago.
Norway became the first foreign country to comment on the row between South Sudan and the UN mission, which has over 8,000 peacekeepers in the young nation.