The South Sudan rebels loyal to Dr Riek Machar acquired weapons they used to commit atrocities in Unity State from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeepers, a new report says.
The Small Arms Survey, a lobby group disclosed in a new investigation released last week that the UN officials operating in South Sudan’s Bentiu town offered dozens of weapons and ammunitions to rebel General James Koang after the outbreak of war in 2013.
The report says the weapons were later used for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity after Gen Koang’s troops stormed a mosque and hospital and killed dozens of civilians in Bentiu.
The weapons were collected from the soldiers and civilians who sought protection at a UN base in Bentiu after fighting occurred between President Salva Kiir forces and rebels in 2014, the report says.
Further, it says some UN officials in the war-torn country admitted in interviews that they gave about 80 assault rifles, five machine guns, grenades and ammunition to Gen Koang.
The report says the UN officials in Bentiu reported to the mission’s headquarters in capital Juba that there had been a transfer of about 40 weapons handed to rebels, but a senior rebel commander was quoted in the report saying they received 500 weapons from the UN base in Bentiu.
“When Gen Koang took power, we all knew him. The majority of the opposition leaders in Bentiu had been our usual interlocutors. We had even trained them,” the report quoted unidentified UN official who at the time was based in Bentiu town as saying.
“Both issues also show that the conflict triggered divisions within UNMISS over which forces to support,” the report says.
However, the UN and the US have both handed the rebel Gen Koang sanctions for committing heinous crimes such as targeted killings and sexual violence against women and young girls in the oil-rich Unity State, the report says.
Recently, several reports released by various human rights agencies including the Amnesty International accused UNMISS of failing to provide adequate protection to civilians seeking protection and safety at UN bases citing July violence in which aid workers and many civilians were raped near UN base in Jebel in Juba.