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National Salvation Front (NAS) dismayed by UNMISS Report on Human Rights violations & abuses

Date: 05/07/2019 ref: HQ/IRCL/03 NAS PRESS RELEASE, JUN/06/2019, SSN;

The National Salvation Front (NAS) is hugely dismayed by the report of the UNMISS Human Rights Division (HRD) on the human rights violations and abuses that took place between September 2018 and April 2019. It’s unfortunate that a report from a supposedly neutral organisation should contain such unsubstantiated allegations against NAS.

The HRD claims there were two phases of the violence during the period of investigation. “The first phase corresponded roughly with the signing of the R-ARCSS in September 2018 – when NAS, SSNMC and affiliated armed groups intensified their operations after repudiating R-ARCSS – until late December 2018, when the government began to launch military operations to dislodge these groups from Central Equatoria”.

The above implies that the escalation in hostilities was an attempt by the non-signatories of the R-ARCSS to derail it.

But the facts indicate that just hours after the signing of the R-ARCSS, the government forces and its affiliated militia (Mathiang Anyoor) carried out attacks on SPLM-IO positions in Kajo-Keji and the neighbouring areas. These attacks took place on 13 and 14 September 2018 and were reported in all media outlets.

Furthermore, on the 15th of September 2018, a UNMISS convoy travelling through Yei Town came under attack where a Nepalese peacekeeper got wounded. An SSPDF soldier was identified as the culprit.

David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, said the following about the incident – “This situation is evidence of lack of command and control of armed forces which has resulted in unruly elements who continue to commit human rights abuses in the area. It’s beholden on the Government to bring their forces under control.”

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David Shearer had just confirmed what has been known all along that the SPLA which has been renamed as SSPDF has always been an unruly and chaotic army. Perhaps, the looting of the World Food Organisation (WFO) warehouse and the ransacking of people’s properties in Juba in July 2016, reminds us how disorganised is the SSPDF.

NAS had its share of attacks carried against its positions by both the SPLM-IO and the SSPDF. In October 2018, the SPLM-IO attacked our positions in Minyori and Logo of the Yei River State. In December 2018 and January 2019, the SSPDF intensified its attacks against NAS positions in Yei River area, Katigiri, Gorom, and Lo’bonok.

It’s noteworthy that the Chief of General Staff of the SSPDF, General Gabrial Jok Riak and the Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLM-IO, General James Koang Chuol issued a joint statement to undertake joint attacks against NAS positions. NAS forces continued to respond in self-defence.

HRD idea of two phases of violence (first phase and second phase) is on the paper only. There’s no truth in it. The SSPDF has been on the offensive against the opposition before and from day one following the signing of the R-ARCSS.

We are surprised that the report didn’t include the incident in Luri in December 2018 whereby government soldiers assaulted a team of CTSAMVM monitors.

A female Colonel from the Ethiopian army was forced to remove all her clothing and remain completely naked. A Sudanese army Colonel and a Kenyan army Major were also forced to strip their clothes.

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These are serious human rights violations which for reasons known to UNMISS, IGAD, and the RJMEC haven’t been investigated, and the perpetrators aren’t made known to the public nor brought to book.

When we consider the case of the wounded Nepalese peacekeeper together with the Luri incident where no conviction has been made, many are left to wonder about what’s going on within UNMISS, IGAD, and the RJMEC?

Is the Government of South Sudan being appeased?

The above account contrasts with the attitude of both organisations towards NAS and the opposition in general. Despite the absence of material evidence to corroborate its narrative, the UNMISS-HRD report accuses NAS of killing civilians, rape, sexual slavery, abduction, and looting of private properties.

There are no names, photographs or credible interviews with the victims to support the allegations against NAS. Moreover, no organisation other than UNMISS reported such allegations.

For example, the collective rape of 157 women and girls by government forces along the roads near Nhialdu and Guit to Bentiu between 19 and 29 November 2018 was reported by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

It’s quite evident that the allegations against NAS are unfounded. In fact, it has been reported in the Yei area that the local population fled the Government controlled areas to the safety behind NAS lines.

NAS observed the following regarding the methodology of the report:

Firstly, the HRD collected its data from Government controlled areas – mainly Yei town and on brief visits to Lo’bonok. The team of investigators seems to have reduced Central Equatoria to Yei area and Lo’bonok.

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There are no data about the atrocities committed by the SSPDF and the Mathiang Anyoor militia in Lainya, Wonduruba and the Luri area which have seen widespread human rights abuses.

The question that comes to mind is how comprehensive and representative is the report? Does it reflect the realities on the ground when only 23 villages were involved in the investigation in an area bigger than some independent countries?

Secondly, the report states – “Despite several incidents of access denial to the affected areas by State actors, UNMISS human rights officers conducted field visits to more than 23 villages and sites in Yei and Lo’bonok areas.”

The above means the HRD was only allowed to go to areas that had been sanctioned by the Government. It reduces the value of the information gathered. But the fundamental question is – on what grounds does the HRD base its accusations against NAS given the fact that its movements were curtailed in the Government controlled areas and it never entered the NAS controlled areas?

In conclusion, the part about NAS in the report is very misleading and lacks credibility.

Nonetheless, NAS reaffirms its commitment to a peaceful settlement of the crisis in our beloved country through a peace process that addresses the root causes of the conflict.

Dr Lako Jada Kwajok

Chairman of the International Relations Committee of the National Salvation (NAS)

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