PoC Juba residents deny having weapons amid incitement fears
JUBA (14 Oct.)

Community leaders in the UN protection camps in Juba strongly deny
that they have any weapons and insist that they are just “normal
civilians” after the South Sudanese army today claimed that some camp
residents are keeping weapons and threatened to deploy forces around
the camps.

Approximately 40,000 people live in the camps known as 'Protection of
Civilians' sites.

Today two community leaders in the camps insisted that there are no
soldiers among them and nobody is armed. They expressed concerns about
public allegations made by the SPLA to press in Juba today.

Reverend Matthew Dhol said, “I am a man of the Lord and I will not
tell a lie... in the place were we are staying in UNMISS there are no
soldiers and we do not have anyone carrying weapons. In this camp in
PoC1 and PoC3 we do not have anyone armed. These are just civilians.”

A member of the camp leadershop in PoC3, Char James Kim said that the
citizens inside the camps in Juba are not rebels, they are just
unarmed civilians. He says that uniforms that the army displayed to
press today may have been discarded around the protection sites but do
not belong to people inside.

“Let me be frank to you – you know always if there is a field of
battle always there can be military equipment just left behind. And
those equipment they do not belong to IDPs. Maybe they belong to IO
soldiers but maybe it goes back to that time of July, not now,” he
told Radio Tamazuj.

“Another thing here: inside we don't have guns inside the PoC site. We
don't have soldiers. If there are former soldiers already inside the
PoC then they are no longer soldiers,” said Char. “There is no any
opposition inside the camp. We are just normal civilians. And we don't
support any person. We just support peace.”

Accusations and denials

SPLA today called journalists to its Bilpham headquarters in Juba to
display uniforms and other military gear that it says belonged to
soldiers that have gone into the protection sites. Col. Santo Doming,
the army's deputy spokesman, told Radio Tamazuj that they got the
uniforms from UNMISS.

“Yes we have uniforms, we have uniforms, during the fighting in July,
after Riak left, majority of them didn’t want to go with him, so they
entered the UNMISS PoC here in Juba,” he claimed.

“They entered with uniforms, we don’t know where did they put their
guns, the UN has collected all the uniforms, all the uniforms are more
than 1,000 outside here, I am the one who brought them now with a car,
there are uniforms of wounded people because you can see blood, the
uniforms were brought and handed over to the SPLA,” he added.

“So, we told the UN that these are the uniforms, but where are guns?
They said they do not know about the guns, we think that UN mandate
does not allow any person to enter the UN premises with a uniform or
with a gun, so the guns might have been hidden somewhere.”

But PoC community member Char strongly denies this saying, “We don't
have guns, we don't have anything. If there is anything maybe they
found it behind the fence, but not inside the PoC site.”

But the SPLA spokesman insists that camp residents are responsible for
attacks on their checkpoints near PoCs 1, 2 and 3 on the road going to
Yei. “From time to time they attack our people and return to the UN,”
he said. Char dismisses this: “That is unknown gunmen – but it is not
IDP – IDPs they don't have anything, they are just normal civilians,
they cannot do that.”

But Colonel Santo explained that they convened an event today with all
the Juba press because they want South Sudanese to believe that UNMISS
is harboring rebels. “Today we brought the uniforms, and we invited
all the media houses because we want to prove to the Southerners that
still there are pockets of rebels inside the UNMISS premises.”

“So this is what we have done, the uniforms are here, maybe tomorrow
they will be given to the people of archive as evidence that still
people of Riek have entered UNMISS and they are causing problems in
Juba,” he said.

A spokesperson for UNMISS did not immediately respond for comment.
Previously, however, the mission has carried out disarmament searches
inside the PoCs and also recently did a sweep for weapons around the
camps, publishing photos on its website of the weapons searches. The
mission has a policy not to hand over seized weapons to SPLA but it
destroyed some.

Attack fears

The SPLA spokesman's comments today are not unprecedented. Minister of
Information Michael Makuei several times accused the peacekeeping
mission of supporting rebels, including in March 2014 when he
displayed weapons that he said UNMISS was shipping to the rebels
though actually they were meant for a contingent of Ghanaian

After an attack on the UN protection site in his hometown Bor the next
month he justified the attack saying that the victims were 'rebels'.

“We cannot continue to accommodate rebels inside UNMISS compounds,” he
said, implying that the unarmed civilians who were killed were
legitimate targets of war.

For his part President Salva Kiir has previously spoken angrily over
UNMISS' refusal to hand over guns that he says belong to the SPLA. In
remarks in 2014 he said, “You will get guns with uniforms [on UN
bases]… I asked them to give us back our guns… so there is a problem
with the international community and it is something that people will
have to thrash out with them.”

Today Colonel Santo likewise said that the UN should hand over any
guns that they got from the camp residents. “Secondly, we are trying
to negotiate with UN, if the guns are inside there, they should be
given to us, if they are outside there, we will carry out a campaign
to search around the areas near the UN because there is a residential
area, maybe they hide the guns in the neighbourhood, we will search
the guns and seize the guns,” he added

According to Reverend Dhol, such statements are signs that the army is
planning a possible attack against the protection camps.

“They want to implicate the people in the camp so that they commit
crimes against the people inside... this is not the first time that
the government has made accusations against the camp residents. These
are reasons that they can make up to attack the camp,” he said.

The church leader insisted that they are unarmed. “It is not true,” he
said of SPLA's claims. “It is just not true.”

Photo (above): A woman at the UN camp in Juba in July 2016 (Credit:
UNMISS/Eric Kanalstein)

Gallery photos 1,2, 3 (below): A display of military uniforms that
SPLA showed to press today at Bilpham

Gallery photo 4 (below): UNMISS weapons sweep around the protection
camps after fighting in the area in July

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