UN denies arming rebels in South Sudan

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Juba – Hilde Johnson, Head, UN Mission to South Sudan, on Thursday denied allegations that the mission was arming and supporting rebels in the conflict and pitting them against government troops.

She said in Juba that UN investigation committee had confirmed that the weapons convoy seized by the government in the central Lakes State in early March was not destined for the rebels.

Johnson said that the weapons were meant for Ghanaian peacekeepers.

The suspicion came about because the weapons were being  transported by road, contrary to the UN policy of transporting all peacekeeping weaponry by air and with government consent.

Also some of the trucks in the convoy were labelled as construction and general goods.

The discovery of the weapons prompted the South Sudanese government to order that all UN and humanitarian agency vehicles be subjected to security check.

Johnson said that the UN mission had said the policy breaches were errors, and that there was no intention of aiding the rebels.

She also denied government allegations that the UN had sheltered rebel soldiers in some of its bases, where tens of thousands of people fleeing the fighting have sought shelter.

“The UN has the obligation to protect any civilian seeking refuge on its premises, including elements from both sides of the conflict,” she said.

The UN has about 8,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan, where a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar turned violent in mid-December.

A cease fire signed in January failed to quell the hostilities. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict with nearly a million people displaced. (dpa/NAN)

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