South Sudan threatens to suspend UN mission’s air operations over dispute

News | 21 August 2017, 12:09pm
Julius Gale
David Shearer, Head of the UNMISS addresses aid workers at the UN OCHA, during the World Humanitarian Day celebrations in Juba, South Sudan, on Friday. (File picture: Xinhua)


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South Sudan has threatened to stop all planes operated by the UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) from taking to the skies following a dispute over security clearance.

Government spokesman Michael Makuei said late Sunday that UNMISS has failed to follow a government directive introduced last year that requires organizations to get flight clearance 72 hours before travel. Makuei said that the UN mission over the weekend operated flights without notifying the government, as such they have suspended cooperation with UNMISS until the matter is solved. ”We established a one-stop shop for the coordination of all UNMISS flights.

Now they decided to move against this establishment and after being prevented they went to the air and said the government of South Sudan is ‘obstructing us from our operations’. This is not acceptable. They either conform or we will stop them finally,” Makuei said.

Makuei added that the second point of disagreement also emanated from the recently deployed batch of the regional protection force who are currently said to be based at the UNMISS compound near the airport.

The 4,000-strong additional blue helmets were mandated by the Security Council last year to help protect civilians and key installations, including the airport following renewed violence in July 2016. But Makuei argued that the government is capable of managing the airport and the UN troops must be relocated from their current base. ”They decided to ignore the established norms and the established procedures.

This is not acceptable because South Sudan is not a no-man’s land. There is a man in South Sudan called South Sudan government, and this is sovereignty (that) must be respected,” he added.

Efforts to get a response from UNMISS were futile as the known phone number of the mission’s spokesperson was off by time of publication. South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of civil war which has taken devastating toll on its people as tens of thousands have been killed and nearly 6 million displaced, according to the UN. The UN said the war-torn East African country has become a hostile environment for aid workers to operate in amid increased killing and detention of humanitarian workers, denial of access and looting of relief supplies.

– Xinhua

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