Mugume Davis Rwakaringi
JUBA — The South Sudan army on Monday denied its soldiers were involved in recent alleged attacks against United Nations employees in Juba, and rejected accusations that it is blocking the movement of U.N. peacekeepers and relief supplies.
Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesman, Colonel Philip Aguer, said the army has not received any formal complaints from anyone who claims to have been assaulted and detained by members of the army.
"The victim would have come to the SPLA general headquarters and bring the complaint," he told South Sudan in Focus.
"The SPLA Directorate of Administration is capable of looking into any allegations on abuse or violations of any rules,” he said.
U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) officials last week issued a statement accusing South Sudan “security forces” of being behind the assault and detention of two staff members.
UNMISS spokeswoman Ariane Quentier said U.N. officials are still looking into who was responsible for the attacks.
"We are not sure who it was exactly, but men in uniform, that is for sure,” she said.
Restrictions affect aid delivery
Quentier declined to more information about the two separate assaults. She said UNMISS will give more details to the South Sudanese authorities, who have already been briefed on ongoing restrictions on UNMISS patrols, especially in Unity state.
The blockages impact the ability of the United Nations and aid agencies to reach civilians in need, Quentier said, blaming both the SPLA and opposition forces for restricting the peacekeepers’ movements.
If the restrictions are not lifted soon, South Sudan could plunge into famine, she said.
"The seeding season is soon past. It is a race against time to be able to move throughout this country to support the people," she said.
Aguer denied that the SPLA has restricted UNMISS movements in the country. He said the army would investigate the accusations, "But if you just blanketly accuse or try to blame lack of delivery on SPLA, we will not accept that.”
Quentier noted that both the alleged attacks on U.N. personnel and restrictions of movement of relief goods and peacekeepers are violations of the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.N. and the government of South Sudan.
Relations between the government and U.N. soured when the conflict erupted in mid-December. As thousands of people streamed into U.N. bases and compounds, seeking protection from the fighting, the government accused UNMISS of sheltering rebels inside its bases.
In January, tensions again rose when UNMISS barred information minister Michael Makuei Lueth from the U.N. base in Bor because his bodyguards were carrying weapons.
Days after that incident, Kiir accused the United Nations of seeking to take over South Sudan, speculating that UNMISS may have pushed his former vice president and political rival, Riek Machar, to rise up against him. Kiir dialed back his accusations a few days later.
In March, relations between UNMISS and South Sudan took another hit when South Sudanese officials said they had intercepted 11 U.N. trucks carrying weapons in violation of a U.N. rule that arms should be transported in the country only by air.
The following month, an armed mob attacked the U.N. base in Bor, killing dozens of people. Most of the victims were civilians who were sheltering on the base but some were aid workers.