April 16, 2013 (BOR) – The head of the Untied Nations Mission to South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, has strongly dismissed the perception among many in Jonglei state, that UN peacekeepers killed last week, did not defend themselves when they were attacked in Pibor.
Many in Jonglei have expressed doubt that the UN peacekeepers defended themselves when they were ambushed by 200 armed men on the road between Bor and Pibor.
Johnson, who also serves as the Special Representative of UN’s Secretary General to South Sudan, visited the UNMISS camp in Bor on Tuesday with the state governor Kuol Manyang, to pay her condolences.
Five Indian soldiers and seven civilian members of UNMISS were killed in the Gumuruk area, while travelling in a convoy on April 9.
Johnson previously visited Bor on April 13 with the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support, Anthony Banbury, to show their support for the mission in Jonglei. They both expressed that the mission’s 6,500 have the right to use force in self defense in defense of their mandate.
But on Tuesday Johnson repeated this assertion after questioning from journalists in Bor, while on a visit to a visit to a workshop for county commissioners in Bor.
“I don’t understand where this misunderstanding comes from, the Indian troops fought very very hard, they’re defending themselves when they are under attack”, she stressed.
“In this case, she continued, “we had 28 soldiers and one officer, fighting very hard against 200 attackers, and the fact that five of them were killed and not all shows, with the number of attackers the arms they had RPGs and everything, that they fought tooth and nail to their last breath, this is [the allegation that they did not fight back] total incorrect and this story has to stop.”
Johnson attended a commissioners workshop in Bor to discuss with them ways of increasing civilian protection in Jonglei, which has experienced attacks and counterattacks between cattle herding communities killing over 2,000 people in recent years.
The UN head of mission said the commissioners who were present agreed to proactively act to prevent retaliatory attacks and the mobilisation of armed youth in the state.
Johnson, who spoke to media after the meeting with the commissioners, said that they had spoken about how to improve security in the state and said she was happy with the commissioner’s resolve to prevent future attacks.