By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
June 26, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The humanitarian wing of South Sudan’s rebel SPLM/A in Opposition has refuted allegations the group was blocking aid distribution.
- South Sudanese refugee Nyarout Chuol with her children at a UNHCR-run refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia (Photo: William Davison)
The commissioner of Jonglei state’s Uror County, Mabior Bol, claimed on Wednesday that rebels were blocking aid to conflict-affected people in areas under their control.
Bol said the blockade was affecting over 100,000 people who are suffering of acute food shortages in Lou Nuer areas.
However, the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (SSRRA) said on Thursday the commissioner’s allegations were fabricated.
The group, headed by former vice-president Riek Machar, accused the government of a “calculated move” to enter rebel-held areas for the purposes of espionage under the guise of delivering aid.
SSRRA public relations officer Puoch Riek Deng said the rebel group remained committed to facilitating unhindered humanitarian assistance to affected populations as per the terms of an ceasefire agreement signed between the two warring faction in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 23 January.
According to Deng, the group has successfully facilitated the distribution of food items airdropped by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to people in rebel-controlled areas in March and April.
He said the delivery was carried out with the full coordination between SSRRA, WFP and other UN relief agencies.
“The UN agencies and other relief and humanitarian agencies are in direct contact with the SSRRA offices in Addis Ababa and in Nairobi,” he said.
“Any relief and humanitarian assistance are always done with direct coordination with SSRRA offices,” he added.
Security concerns and ongoing food shortages has forced tens of thousands of South Sudanese to flee to neighbouring Ethiopia.
On average 1,200 refugees, mostly women and children, enter Ethiopia daily to escape ongoing violence in South Sudan, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
Ethiopia currently hosts 181,000 South Sudanese, of whom 147,000 have arrived since conflict broke out in mid-December last year amid escalating political tensions within the ruling SPLM.
South Sudanese refugees are currently being sheltered at camps in the Gambela region, which borders South Sudan.
Over the past few months Ethiopia has been forced to open three new camps to cope up the increasing influx of refugees from the world’s youngest nation.
Fighting in South Sudan has pitted government troops loyal to president Salva Kiir against rebels aligned with Machar, largely comprising of dissident soldiers and ethnic militia.
Thousands have died over the past six months, with more than 1.3 million people displaced by the violence.