April 24, 2014 (JUBA) – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Thursday that a barge convoy carrying food items and fuel was attacked in the Upper Nile state’s Tonga area, leaving four people injured.
The attack occurred at 10:15am (local time) involving rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and small arms, UNMISS said in a press statement.
“The UN Mission in South Sudan condemns in the strongest possible terms this morning’s unprovoked attack on a convoy of barges hired by the Mission to deliver urgently needed food and fuel supplies to the UNMISS Upper Nile Base in Malakal,” the statement reads in part.
Over 70,000 civilians have sought shelter at UN bases in many parts of the country fearing attack die their ethnicity due to the civil conflict that began in mid-December between the armed forces and defectors who are fighting alongside armed civilians.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) and the armed opposition – the SPLM/A in Opposition – have been fighting in various parts of the Upper Nile state but both denied the presence of their forces in Tonga.
Last week, South Sudan’s minister of interior, Aleu Ayieny Aleu, said the government was providing protection to the barges on the White Nile river in areas under it control.
Aleu was asked about other barges that are claimed to have triggered tensions upstream in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, which lies to the south of Upper Nile.
These other barges were delayed in Bor during escalating tensions, which culminated in an attack on a UNMISS camp by local youth who accused the UN of harbouring and arming the White Army – a Nuer civilian militia group fighting alongside South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar, who is leading the armed opposition.
The attack on the UN base in Bor resulted in the death of at least 48 people, although UNMISS is yet to release the exact number of casualties.
The world body is urging both parties to South Sudan’s conflict “to comply with the cessation of hostilities agreement” which was signed in January but has been largely ignored.
The UN statement accuses neither the SPLA or rebels of attacking its barges.
The attack occurred on Thursday after the barges left Mangalla in Central Equatoria state on 18 April with 16 crew members and 56 peacekeepers, UNMISS said.