20 January 2014

South Sudan's Kiir Criticizes UN Over Camp Access Dispute

Photo: UN
The bodies of two UN peacekeepers killed in action (file photo).

Juba — South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit launched a rare criticism against United Nations on Monday, asking for clarifications from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the status on UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

"I think the UN want to be the government of the South [Sudan] and they felt short of naming the chief of the UNMISS as the co-president of the Republic of South Sudan," said Kiir.

"And if that is the position of Ban Ki-Moon, they should make it clear that the UN wants to takeover South Sudan," Kiir added.

Relations between UNMISS and South Sudan government have deteriorated after fighting broke out in Juba last month between parts of the army, triggering armed rebellions in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states.

According to the latest statistics released by the the UN OCHA on Monday the conflict internally displaced 494,000 people, including 67,400 civilians who sought protection in nine UNMISS protection sites across the country. Also 86,100 South Sudanese refugees have reached neighbouring countries.

The UN's camp in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state, hosts 10,000 people and was the scene of a dispute between the government and the UN on Sunday when South Sudan's information minister was refused entry the compound because of his two armed bodyguards.

The heated quarrel ensued was recorded and broadcast on South Sudan Television (SSTV) on Sunday evening. Minister Michael Makuei Lueth's body guards are reported to have threatened the UN staff who refused them access to the camp. However they eventually withdrew allowing them to enter.

On Monday, the UN Secretary released a statement condemning the forced entry by government officials. Ban said he was particularly disturbed over threats made to UN staff after they refused to allow armed soldiers to enter the site after they tried to accompany civilians inside.

"The secretary-general condemns the threats made against UN personnel and demands that all parties to the conflict respect the sanctity of UNMISS protection sites", he said in a statement.

The spokesman for South Sudan's army, Philip Aguer said on Monday that the UN should come out to explain why the minister was not allowed into the camp.

"What was inside that UNMISS [compound] which they don't want the minister of incumbent government to see," Aguer told Sudan Tribune by phone.

UNMISS says that the minister was not allowed into the camp as they are imposing a no-weapons policy in the camps.

The UNMISS on 16 January announced a number of new measures aiming to improve security at its protection of civilians sites in the troubled country. The mission also deployed more police and military personnel recently arrived, as the UN Security Council redoubled its authorised force last December.

In a news conference, President Kiir also rejected the rebels' demand that Ugandan troops withdraw from the country as a condition for signing a ceasefire.

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