Tag Archives: Unity State atrocities

UN accused of giving arms to South Sudanese rebel commander before massacre

Washington Post

December 15 at 4:03 PM
The U.N. mission in South Sudan gave weapons to a top rebel general just weeks after civil war began three years ago, and his forces went on to carry out one of the war’s worst atrocities, according to a report released Thursday.

The Small Arms Survey, a ­Geneva-based research group, found that in December 2013
U.N. officials in the town of Bentiu in northern Unity state handed dozens of weapons, as well as ammunition, to rebel general James Koang.

Four months later, Koang’s troops killed hundreds of civilians sheltering in a mosque and a hospital in Bentiu, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. Koang has said in interviews that those killed were not civilians but members of a pro-government militia. The report did not say whether the weapons given by the United Nations were used in the massacre.

U.N. officials in South Sudan and New York did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the allegations.

South Sudan’s war, which entered its fourth year Thursday, has pitted soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against those backing the former vice president, Riek Machar, a Nuer. Tens of thousands of people have died in battles that have played out along ethnic lines, and U.N. officials and human rights groups have accused both sides of committing crimes against humanity. A top U.N. human rights official recently warned that the country is on the verge of “all-out ethnic civil war” that could result in genocide.

U.N. warned of possible ‘all-out ethnic civil war’ in South Sudan

Members of the UN Human Rights Council were warned on Dec. 14, that inter-ethnic violence in South Sudan could degenerate into a “Rwanda-like” genocide. (UNTV)

The United Nations established a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan in 2011 that has grown to more than 13,000 soldiers and police officers.

Throughout the war, the U.N. mission has found itself caught in the crossfire, accused by each side of supporting the other, with U.N. bases at times coming under attack. U.N. investigations, aid groups and research groups have accused the U.N. mission of failing to adequately protect civilians, including people on and near its bases.

According to the new report, U.N. officials in South Sudan said in interviews that they gave about 80 assault rifles, five machine guns, grenades and ammunition to Koang. At the time, U.N. officials in Bentiu reported to the mission’s headquarters in Juba that there had been a transfer of 40 rifles, the report said. It quoted an unidentified rebel, meanwhile, as saying they received 500 guns from the United Nations.

The weapons came from soldiers and civilians who fled to the U.N. base in Bentiu for protection during the fighting and handed over their weapons to peacekeepers, according to the report.

Koang, a soft-spoken Nuer who was the top government military official in Bentiu when the war began, quickly defected and took control of Bentiu. He asked the United Nations to give him the guns, according to the report. U.N. officials complied, apparently because they considered the general a friend, the report said.

“When [James] Koang took power, we all knew him,” said one unidentified official from the U.N. mission in South Sudan who was quoted in the report. “The majority of the opposition leaders in Bentiu had been our usual interlocutors. We had even trained them.”

The report said that U.N. officials in Bentiu asked their bosses in the capital for guidance on the matter but none came, so they made their own decision. A subsequent request by Koang for more weapons was turned down, it said.

The United Nations and the U.S. government have imposed sanctions on Koang, with the U.S. Treasury Department saying that his rebels had “targeted civilians, including women and children, with killing, sexual violence and attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, and locations where civilians were seeking refuge.”

Meanwhile, the chief of the U.N. mission in South Sudan at the start of the war, Hilde Johnson, tried to give the government in Juba weapons that had been collected from Nuer who had fled to a U.N. base there after government soldiers went door-to-door executing Nuer citizens, according to the report.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York overruled Johnson, the report said, citing a cable sent to her from the headquarters. After Johnson stepped down in July 2014, her successor destroyed the weapons, the report said.

The Small Arms Survey report said the episodes reveal how the U.N. mission, known as UNMISS, struggled to maintain unified command and control and to understand that the South Sudanese officials on both sides who they had worked with before the crisis were now liable to commit atrocities.

The two cases show that ­“UNMISS failed to adapt quickly enough to the changed circumstances provoked by the conflict, and that it lacked neutrality,” the report said. “Both issues also show that the conflict triggered divisions within UNMISS” over which forces to support.

The South Sudan government still accuses the U.N. mission of supporting the rebels, in part because some 200,000 mostly Nuer people are staying at U.N. bases for fear of attack by government forces. The government has not presented evidence to back such accusations. People on the bases are also critical of U.N. peacekeepers, accusing them of standing by or running away when Kiir’s troops have sprayed bullets inside.

South Sudan – armed groups attack towns, rape and loot in Unity State

Deutsche Welle

UN: rapes and abductions as battle rages in South Sudan

Gunmen in South Sudan torched towns and looted aid groups during the latest government offensive toward the rebel stronghold of Leer, UN officials and diplomats have said. Aid agencies are pulling out of the region.

Flüchtlinge im Südsudan

At least 28 towns and villages in South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity State have been attacked in less then two weeks, UN said Tuesday, with over 100,000 people pushed out of their homes.

According to the UN peacekeeping mission, reports from the battleground state included “towns and villages being burned, killings, abductions of males as young as 10 years of age, rape and abduction of girls and women, and the forced displacement of civilians.”

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it appeared the perpetrators of the attacks were soldiers with the South Sudan Army (SPLA) and mobilized youths “clad in civilian clothes, wielding AK-47s.”

“Whenever fighting intensifies between government and opposition forces, the civilian population bears the brunt,” he told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

Government forces, loyal to President Salva Kiir, have recently started moving towards the town of Leer in Unity state, which is controlled by rebels supporting the former vice president, Riek Machar. The government’s push is one of the heaviest offensives since the civil war erupted almost a year and a half ago.

Running to the swamps

Young boys have been abducted to serve as child soldiers during recent weeks, the UN said, while aid organizations said that their bases have been looted. Over 300,000 civilians have been left without “life-saving aid” in the state, with UN and aid agencies moving their staff out of the region.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also pulled out their activists out of Leer, warning of a new exodus from the rebel held city.

Some 120,000 displaced people were being sheltered in Leer, ICRC chief in South Sudan Franz Rauchenstein told AFP, adding that “now they were moving out into the swamps to hide, where they have no access to food or healthcare.”

Famine looms

South Sudan’s government said on Tuesday that rebels were behind the surge in fighting and accused them of planning more attacks in Unity and Upper Nile states, where the oil-fields are located.

Government military spokesman Philip Aguer also cast doubt on the number of displaced people.

“Fighting has not reached the area of Leer, and I don’t think the populations should run,” because civilians were not being targeted, he told Reuters.

The civil war in South Sudan has killed tens of thousands of people, and some 2.5 million facing the risk of famine, according to the UN.

Multiple ceasefire deals have so far proven ineffective.

dj/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)