South Sudan protest against UN over arms cache

A South Sudanese protester shouts slogans while holding a placard with a photo montage of UN special representative Hilda Johnson holding a handgun, during a rally in Juba on 10 March 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Demonstrators demanded the resignation of UN South Sudan envoy Hilda Johnson

More than 1,000 people have protested in South Sudan's capital, Juba, accusing the UN of arming rebels.

On Friday, the government said its troops had intercepted weapons in a UN convoy marked as carrying food.

The UN denied the arms were destined for rebels, but acknowledged it made a mistake transporting them by road.

The UN has about 8,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan, the world's newest state where conflict broke out in December between government and rebel forces.

In January, South Sudan's President Salva Kiir accused the UN of running a "parallel government" in his country - a charge it denied.

'Arms for Ghanaian troops,

The latest incident will increase government animosity towards the UN mission in South Sudan, known as Unmiss, says Juba-based journalist Mading Ngor.

Protesters demanded the resignation of UN South Sudan special representative Hilda Johnson at the rally addressed by top government officials.

"Down Hilda Johnson. Go away," protesters chanted.

UN spokeswoman Ariane Quentier told BBC Focus on Africa that a high-level UN team would arrive in South Sudan on Tuesday to carry out a joint investigation with the government into the incident.

The UN acknowledged that it had breached an agreement with the government when it transported the weapons by road, rather than by air, Ms Quentier said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some 860,000 people have fled their homes since the start of a conflict in December

"This is a very, very regrettable mistake because it sent absolutely wrong signals," she added.

Government troops intercepted the weapons in Rumbek, the capital of Lakes State, as they were being transported to Bentiu, the capital of Unity State, Ms Quentier said.

The weapons were for Ghanaian troops who had arrived in South Sudan to join Unmiss, and not for rebel forces, she said.

In December, fighting broke out between troops loyal to President Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar, forcing some 860,000 people people to flee their homes.

A ceasefire was agreed between the two sides towards the end of January, but they have accused each other of violating it.

Peace talks hosted by Ethiopia are currently suspended and are expected to resume on 20 March.

South Sudan became independent in 2011 after a decades-long fight against the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

Image caption Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
Image caption Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Image caption Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Image caption The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Image caption After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Image caption Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Image caption Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).


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