South Sudan President Salva Kiir said the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was running a “parallel government” in his country, adding to increasing friction between UNMISS and his ruling party.
“I think the U.N. wants to be the government of the South [Sudan] and they fell short of naming the chief of the UNMISS as the co-president of the Republic of South Sudan,” President Kiir said in a televised speech. “If that is the position of Ban Ki-Moon, they should make it clear that the U.N. wants to take over South Sudan.”
“If they [the U.N.] were the ones who instigated Dr. Riek Machar to take this action then they really misadvised him,” tweeted the official twitter account of the South Sudan government on Tuesday.
In his speech, President Kiir appeared to reach out to his rival, asking him to lay down his arms and participate in peace talks. Both sides have blamed the other for the deadlock in peace talks.
Tensions with the U.N. arose on January 19 when South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuel and his armed entourage were denied entry into a UNMISS camp in Bor after government forces reclaimed the town from rebel fighters.
“The Secretary-General is alarmed at the attempt by senior members of the Government of South Sudan and the South Sudan army to force entry into the civilians site at the compound of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Bor,” said a U.N. spokesperson, “U.N. staff were threatened by South Sudan military when they refused to allow armed soldiers to accompany civilians to visit the UNMISS protection site.”
The South Sudan government responded angrily to the U.N. statement. “We are surprised that the U.N. can deny a hosting minister access to the camp,” said Colonel Phillip Aguer, a military spokesperson, “People are wondering what was inside a camp, that a minister cannot see.” Col. Aguer said Minister Makuel was accompanied by armed bodyguards due to security concerns.
In Juba on Tuesday, a small group of protesters staged a demo outside the UNMISS compound accusing the international body of protecting the rebels.
In Malakal on Monday, a U.N. field hospital managed by the Indian Army was damaged in an exchange of fire between government forces and rebels. The blood bank, laboratory and ultrasonography rooms were destroyed as government forces successfully fought for control of the town.
International pressure has mounted on the government and the rebels to arrive at a ceasefire as thousands have died and nearly half a million people have been displaced in the month-long conflict. Yet, both sides appear unable to finalise the nature of an agreement on the cessation of hostilities and the release of political prisoners held by President Kiir. On a daylong visit to Juba on Monday, the Chair of the African Union Commission, Nkozasana Dlamini-Zuma, urged both sides to sign a deal as soon as possible to stop the violence on the ground.