May 21, 2014 (JUBA) – Two staff members from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) were reportedly assaulted and detained by security forces in separate incidents in the capital, Juba, in recent days.
- UNMISS peacekeepers distribute boxes of food to displaced South Sudanese people on 22 December 2013 (AFP)
Speaking in New York on Wednesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the mission “deplores” the alleged behaviour of members of the security forces.
“These acts are illegal and in clear violations of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which regulates relations between UNMISS and the Government of South Sudan,” he said.
The latest incidents come despite public reassurances given by president Salva Kiir after his meeting with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon earlier this month in which he said his government was committed to working with UNMISS.
Dujarric said the mission has asked the South Sudanese government to immediately investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.
“It also demands that all parties ensure unhindered freedom of movement to the United Nations, and safety for its staff and humanitarian workers,” he said.
UNMISS says it remains concerned over ongoing incidents involving its staff, including assault, detention and harassment.
It says the incidents expose its personnel to serious security risks.
No further details were provided on the circumstances surrounding the assaults or whether the staff members sustained injuries.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have sought refuge at UNMISS peacekeeping bases across the country since political infighting between Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar turned violent in mid-December last year.
The conflict has strained relations between UNMISS and the South Sudanese government, which revealed last month it was reviewing the mission’s mandate and operations, which is up for renewal in July.
In January, Kiir accused UNMISS of running a parallel government after his information minister was refused entry into its camp in Jonglei state capital because he was accompanied by armed bodyguards, although he later withdrew the comments, saying the UN remained a friend of South Sudan.
UNMISS’s credibility in the country also took a hit in March after security officers intercepted a weapons shipment in Lakes state en route to Unity state.
The incident sparked protests in Juba and calls for head Hilde Johnson to stand down amid allegations the shipments had been destined for pro-Machar rebel fighters.
UNMISS denied the claims, saying the cargo was intended for its Ghanaian peacekeeping contingent and had been mistakenly transported by road rather than air – as is its usual protocol – due to a labelling error.
UNMISS was formed in 2005 to monitor the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended over 20 years of civil war between Southern Sudanese rebels and the Khartoum government, paving the way for an independent South Sudan in 2011.