Home | News    Tuesday 18 February 2014

South Sudan, Uganda urged to probe cluster bomb use in conflict


February 17, 2014 (JUBA) – There are growing calls for the South Sudanese and Ugandan governments to launch an investigation into allegations that banned cluster bombs were used during the recent conflict, which erupted in the capital, Juba, mid-December.

Both the South Sudan and Ugandan armies are believed to possess the necessary air power to drop cluster munitions (AFP)

In a report issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Saturday, the New York-based advocacy group said there was “serious and credible evidence” to suggest cluster bombs had been used. It urged states party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to consult with the South Sudanese and Ugandan governments to establish the facts surrounding the allegations.

It also called on both governments to take steps to ensure the independence and impartiality of any investigation by involving international experts, and cooperating with relevant organisations.

“The young nation of South Sudan has enough problems without these horrific weapons, which kill and keep on killing long afterward”, said Steve Goose, arms division director at HRW and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC). “The governments involved should quickly find out who is behind this and make clear they will be held responsible.”


A coalition of South Sudanese human and civil rights advocacy groups has also called for the formation of an independent technical committee to investigate the alleged existence of cluster bombs, claiming the munitions most likely came from outside the country.

A team from the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) found remnants of the weapons, including intact unexploded sub-munitions or “bomblets”, earlier this month, along a section of road near the Jonglei capital Bor. The discovery was made in an area not known to be previously contaminated prior to the outbreak of violence.

According to UNMAS, the site was contaminated with the remnants of up to eight cluster bombs and an unknown quantity of bomblets, which are dropped by fixed wing aircraft or helicopters.

Following the discovery UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon issued a statement condemning the use of cluster bombs in the South Sudan conflict. However, the agency has yet to provide any further details on the origin of the munitions or who might be responsible.


South Sudan’s defence minister, Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk, has strongly denied that any cluster munitions have been used in the conflict, telling the Citizen newspaper the accusations are “total lies”.

Bor changed hands several times in clashes between government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir and rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, with much of the town now in ruins.

Cluster bombs scatter over a wide area, killing and maiming people long after a conflict has ended (Photo; Simon Conway/CMC)

Both the South Sudan army (SPLA) and the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), which has been providing military support to government troops since January, are believed to possess the necessary air power to drop cluster munitions. It is believed opposition forces do not yet have the capacity to deliver these bombs.

However, HRW says there is no evidence to suggest the SPLA – which previously functioned as a rebel armed force – had any involvement in the production, export, use, or stockpiling of cluster munitions. Following its independence from the north in 2011, South Sudan authorities maintained the country was neither a user nor producer of cluster munitions.

The commander of the Ugandan forces in South Sudan, Brig. Muhanga Kayanja, told HRW that his forces had used helicopters to provide close aerial support to ground troops, but denied using any bombs during the conflict.

The Ugandan army spokesperson has confirmed that two battalions, totalling at least 1,600 soldiers, are currently in South Sudan.

The decision to deploy Ugandan troops has been controversial, with the international community calling for their withdrawal amid accusations troops continued to violate the terms of a ceasefire deal signed on 23 January.

Some members of the Ugandan parliament have also raised concerns about the UPDF’s operational parameters and neutrality in the conflict.


HRW said there had been reports of Ugandan helicopter strikes near Bor at the same time as the South Sudanese government began a counter-attack on rebel positions on 21 December, with one military officer quoted by Reuters as saying its MiGs had carried out two bombings in the area.

In 2007, a Ugandan government representative admitted at an international meeting that Uganda possessed a stockpile of cluster bombs that it would destroy, although officials later denied Uganda had ever acquired or used cluster munitions.

South Sudan is not a party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which comprehensively bans cluster munitions. Uganda signed the convention in 2008, but has yet to ratify it. If South Sudanese forces are found to be responsible for the use of cluster bombs, Uganda could still be found to be in violation of the convention by virtue of its close military cooperation with the new nation.

Cluster munitions can be fired by rockets, mortars, and artillery, or dropped by aircraft. They explode in the air, sending dozens, even hundreds, of sub-munitions over a wide area. Many fail to detonate on impact and become de facto landmines, killing and maiming people long after a particular conflict has ended.


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  • 18 February 2014 06:45, by Wicdail

    Freedom fighters Oyeeee Nuer Oyeee. Kirr and M7 are using all means including the use of mass destruction weapons. However we will defeat them at the end.

  • 18 February 2014 06:50, by Knight In Shining Armor

    This is not a good news for the new nation at all.How could you use such illegal weapons against your own people. This is really too much for the peace loving people of S. Sudan. We failed our new nation by giving power to this unrestrained Savage Kiir, and now we have to pay the price.

    • 18 February 2014 07:18, by Tutbol

      Weapons are weapons folks stop these nonsenses of good weapons & bad weapons, i am not supporting the use of any kind of weapons against S Sudanese people though, but iam not buying this HRW shits in S Sudan. During Panthou war, the N Sudan army gased our S Sudan army with chemicals, but the HRW didn’t say any shit condemning N Sudan...

      • 18 February 2014 07:25, by Tutbol

        The US uses cluster bombs, Israel used them in Lebanon. The UN noises about everything to do with S Sudan govt is fast becoming irelevant. S Sudan govt must keep some of these creepy so-called UN agencies on the tight leash. They are becoming vermins to the health of S Sudanese stability. As for the present of Ugandans troops in S Sudan...

        • 18 February 2014 07:36, by Tutbol

          Let the Europeans & the US continue to bark & should be ignored by the S Sudanese govt. IGAD member countries are aware of the role the Ugandans troops played. But the countries like the US & some usual suspects in Europe are making noises about Uganda troops, but they are silent on Riek Machar’s armed rebellion against an elected govt & are not even condemning Riek Machar use of his ’white army’

          • 18 February 2014 07:50, by Tutbol

            malitia to massacred civillians, looted & destroyed properties in Bor. i for one, i am proposing that the UNIMISS & UGANDAN troops should just leave S Sudan. All foreign troops of all forms & shape must leave S Sudan. They are both an impediment to S Sudanese peace. The US was the one that insisted right after S Sudan independence that the govt of S Sudan renewed the US’s UNIMISS mercernaries....

            • 18 February 2014 08:01, by Tutbol

              It has now becomes apparent that foreign mercenaries are increasingly becoming an impediment to our country & therefore, it is paramount that the US Moves its mercernaries out & President Kiir & Kuol Manyang to remove their Ugandan mercenaries & Riek Machar to disarm his tribal ’white army’ malitia & stops his tribal armed rebellion against the elected govt. problems solved, simple & square.

      • 18 February 2014 07:43, by omoni jr.

        you are just typically "jenge" who does not know anything about war.U.S,Israel,and North sudan used cluster bombs for their enemies, Have you every heard that israel or U.S use these weapons against their own people?? Pathetic. we really have animals here in south sudan.

        • 18 February 2014 07:49, by omoni jr.

          And your idiotic president was the one started this senseless conflict and now you act like dog barking at mid-night. And stop blaming the Western wolrds for your own failures,matter fact,you should appreciate for feeding your hungry people across the globe, you caused the fighting and hunger and still insulting western people,How dumb is that!!!!!

        • 18 February 2014 08:11, by Tutbol

          Omoni Jr,
          Did read my first comment, in which i stated that "i am not supporting the use of any kind of weapons against S Sudanese people though" before You call me typical ’Jenge?’ If your Riek Machar didn’t resort to armed rebellion, then there would have been no mass displacements & lootings & your Western world not be feeding huge number of S Sudanese civillians....

          • 18 February 2014 08:46, by Tutbol

            President Kiir is alegged to have start this war in Juba by aleggedly targeting Nuer civillians is that right? Why didn’t he target Equatorians to whom you yourself Omoni Jr belongs? Why didn’t Kiir clanmen targeted the Nuers in their Warap state just as their son Salva Kiir did in Juba by targeting the Nuers? Some of our Riek Machar supporters like Omoni Jr, Kim Deng have been brewing this war...

            • 18 February 2014 08:55, by Tutbol

              for years before the 15/12/2013 tragedy, they think S Sudanese do not know what they & their boss Riek Machar have been secretly scheming. If Riek Machar relies on the brats like Kim Deng, Omoni Jr or the Lou Nuer so-called ’white army’ to bring his imagined democracy to S Sudan & S Sudanese; then it would be like "passing an elephant through the eye of a needle" for Riek Machar....

              • 18 February 2014 09:03, by Tutbol

                On my own view though, both Riek Machar, Salva, Nyandeng Garang, the Group of (7) seven plus the Group (4) four that is still in custody have created this tragedy & our peoples, be they Nuers, Dinkas & anyone else caught up in between doesn’t desrve this. Our leaders brought this tragedy to our peoples & our country & our peoples are now paying the price they didn’t deserve to pay.

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