South Sudan Needs More Answers On Seized UNMISS Arms

By Joan Walters
South Sudan News

PaulJacob_ssnSouth Sudan Acting Director General of Information Paul Jacob viewing some of the guns
[Photo: Matata Safi]

Rumbek — March 10, 2014 … The rift between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the leadership of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UMNISS) seems to be deepening after authorities in the Lakes state last week seized vehicles contracted by the later to transport ‘building materials’ were found to be carrying military hardware.

Thirteen of the privately owned vehicles belonging to different companies based in Juba are now been held in Lakes State capital Rumbek, and another unspecified number have also been detained beyond Rumbek.

 

Three of the thirteen detained semi-trailer vehicles each carrying two twenty-feet containers were searched and a number of firearms and ammunition were recovered.

 

The samples of the arms as were being ‘identified’ by military personel included; Rocket Propel Grenade (RPF) launchers, AK24, Gim files, Anti Riot guns, Binoculars [Ances-6 Trilium night bino], radio systems, Bayonets’ Anti-Personal Landlines among others.

 

UNMISS in a statement confirmed the incident and said the seized cargo were meant for its Ghanaian peacekeepers on a peace keeping mission in South Sudan.

 

“In connection with the transport of cargo of general goods belonging to the Ghanaian battalion on its way to Bentiu, several containers were wrongly labeled and inadvertently contained weapons and ammunition This is regrettable,” a UNMISS press release issued on Thursday partly read.

 

“It is the policy of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) that during the crisis in South Sudan all arms and ammunition for peacekeeping contingents are flown into respective areas of deployment and not taken by road. This is an important security measure.” However the government says it needs more answers than ‘just’ issuing press releases.

 

“It is not enough that the South Sudan UN representative the other day issued a statement and admitted it was a mistake and called it an error; in security situations like this, we will not say ok, if it was a mistake, it is fine …some people must answer, some people must answer” South Sudan’s Information Minister Hon. Micheal Makuei Lueth who traveled to Rumbek on Saturday said after confirming the UN consignment that was impounded.

 

He wondered why the UN body did not following the correct procedures of handling military hardware, as they have been doing previously. We had earlier on established a system, that when importing arms and amunitions or any other military hardware, UNMISS informs the government before these items could begin to move from where they are been imported. It is there after that we [government] give them approval. Hon. Makuei explained. Adding that even after the equipment are moved to South Sudan, they are inspected before they are moved to their destination.

 

“UNMISS is not working in good faith, in fact our problem is not with UNMISS as a UN entity in South Sudan but with the personnel who are running UNMISS – why are they hiding these arms from the South Sudan government? This is an ill intension and this will not be accepted by the government of South Sudan” the Hon. Makuei who is also the government’s official spokesperson stressed.

 

The government earlier accused UNMISS for what is termed as ‘handing over’ of it vehicles and military tanks to the rebels of Dr. Riek machar who rebelled against the government after a failed coup attempt in mid December last year. UNMISS denied the charges.

 

At least from the offloaded containers, the arms and firearms were found parked at the far end of the container, while towards the entrance were building material as indicated on the way bill.

 

Containers bear varying destinations

Despite all waybills of the thirteen impounded vehicles indicating Bentiu as the last destination of delivery; varying labels could be seen on the containers suggesting that not all the containers were heading to Unity state as indicated in the waybills. Rumbek, Bentiu are some of the labels on the containers.

 

Lakes state Governor Matur Chut Dhuol wondered why the container(s) for Rumbek were not handed over to the UNMISS representatives in Lakes state. Governor Dhoul said it is time the UN brings fresh faces to its mission in South Sudan.  If you keep people in the same positions for very many years, they will get used to the system and begin manipulating it he said.

 

The drivers speaks out

Speaking to all the drivers of the different companies currently in custody, one thing was clear, all the drivers were not present when the containers were loaded.

 

“We are drivers of a company called Taslim, when these containers were filled, we were not there. When we arrived with out trucks, we found the containers had seals on them and were loaded on our truck; We were latter given the waybills indicating that what we had on board are building materials”, one driver of Kenyan origin who identified himself as Ali speaking in Kiswahili said.

 

As drivers we are not hired by UN nor paid by UN. We are here as drivers of our company that pays us; we do not know anything about these guns, he added.

They wanted to hire about twenty trucks, but am sure they did not find all that number, said another driver Abraham Ladu, a South Sudanese National who lives in Malakia, a suburb in the Capital Juba. Indeed we found there were many containers all sealed waiting to be transported at the UN base in Tongping; Laku whose company vehicle was hired on the 14th  of last month said

 

IGP was misled Hon: Makuei

Hon. Makuei said because of the blanket-trust that the government had on UNMISS, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) based on the waybills presented to him, he said issued a letter to all roadblocks and all the police commissioners of the states through which the vehicles would be passing, directing them to facilitate the free movement of the trucks. “It turned out that even the IGP was misled”, Hon. Makuei noted.

 

He congratulated the lake states government particularly the governor and the security operatives. He said if the hired vehicles were able to move thousands of kilometers only to be apprehended in Rumbek, ‘that means these vehicles have been moving everywhere”. Hon. Makuei further said the ‘UNMISS has given the government the licenses” to search any UN vehicle anywhere in South Sudan.

 

The high-level government delegation that was in Rumbek over the weekend to confirm the “illegal” transportation of UN arms included, Hon. Makuei, the Interior Minister Aleu Ayieng Aleu and the deputy minister of General Education Bol Makueng who went as a representative of the Ruling Party Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Paul Jacob Kumbo, the Acting Director General of Information in the Ministry of Information. Reporters from both public and private media houses were flown in to witness.