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S. Sudanese rebels deny alleged harassment of NGOs personnel

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April 29, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – Media official for the leadership of the rebel group led by former vice president, Riek Machar, has refuted allegations of harassment against personnel of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in areas controlled by the opposition group.

A number of international relief agencies last week evacuated some of their national and international personnel from the rebel-held town of Pagak to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, claiming they were being harassed by the rebel group during their one-week leadership conference in the area.

They reportedly claimed that their compounds were forcefully occupied by some rebel delegates who came for the conference, looking for accommodation.

However, spokesperson for the rebel leader dismissed the allegations, saying the NGOs personnel were instead under pressure by president Salva Kiir’s government not to operate in areas under the control of the opposition group.

“I talked to one of their managers in his office in Pagak on the day they were leaving. I inquired from him why they were making the allegation when there was no harassment as claimed. He told me he didn’t know anything about the decision and that the directive to leave Pagak came from their head office in Juba,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, said.

“It is not true that they were harassed. I think they decided to go to Juba when we were holding our leadership conference so as to avoid being suspected of sympathizing with us by the government,” Dak told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday.

He however added that not all the NGOs operating in Pagak evacuated their personnel, saying some of them who saw no reason to evacuate had remained in the area.

He criticized the few who decided to leave for succumbing to the government’s influence and threats instead of standing their ground on the basis of international humanitarian laws that should guide their operations.

The media official also said the rebel group advised the relief agencies not to allow their organizations’ operations to be influenced by the government or infiltrated by security agents disguised as relief workers.

Dak cited similar incidents which occurred when government’s security agents working for the national security and military intelligence were detected and identified by the rebels among relief workers. He said the security agents disguised as relief workers to carry out humanitarian assessments in the rebel controlled territories were told to return to Juba.

He further narrated that the identified agents confessed they were working for the national security in Juba, but attempted to disassociate themselves by saying they already stopped working for the national security.

The opposition leader’s spokesman further said their humanitarian wing was working to forge an understanding with the relief organisations operating in the rebel controlled areas so as to set guidelines and rules for their operations.

He also said it was important for the international relief organisations that operate in the opposition’s territories to relocate from Juba to another neighbouring country in order for their operations to be effective and free from threats and infiltration by the government.

(ST)

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