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UN boss denies links with South Sudanese rebels

April 3, 2014 (JUBA) – The head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan on Thursday broke her silence, dismissing allegations that the world body supported the country’s rebels.

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The head of the UN mission in South Sudan Hilde Johnson, October 14, 2011 (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)

Hilde Johnson’s tenure at the helm of the UN recently attracted controversy with series of demonstrations held in protest against her position.

“UNMISS strongly and categorically rejects any allegations related to support or transport of Dr. Riek Machar, which also would contravene the commitment of UN to act in full transparency in relation to the host government with regard to all operations,” Johnson told reporters in the capital, Juba.

The mission, she said, had been accused of 12 serious offences, including supporting, hosting and allegedly arming rebels loyal to rebel leader Machar.

“The accusations that mission harbor the rebels lack basis,” Johnson stressed.

The UN, she said, bases its activities on international humanitarian law as well as it mandate with obligation to protect any civilian seeking refuge on its premises, including elements of from both sides of a conflict, without weapons and uniforms, but not to take part in hostilities.

DETERIORATING RELATIONS

Meanwhile, the senior official did acknowledge that relations between her institution and the government of South Sudan had deteriorated after the latter confiscated weapons in Lakes State en route to Bentiu, saying it was an “error” with no particular intention of aiding rebels.

She clarified that no landmines and anti-aircrafts were part of the cargo as claimed.

“The High Level Investigation Committee from New York just confirmed through the serials numbers and appropriate documentation that the weapons in three containers in UNMISS’ convoy belonged to the Ghanaian battalion en route to Bentiu,” said the UN mission chief.

“The committee found no evidence of any deliberate attempt by UNMISSS staff, the contractors or Ghanaian battalion to secretly transport arms and ammunitions to any third party including rebel groups in South Sudan,” she added.

Johnson said its relations with government were improving and that the cargo and weapons previously detained had been released and were en route to their destination.

“It is important that good working relation between UNMISS and government of South Sudan now continues,” she stressed.

(ST)