UN Peacekeepers on South Sudan border reject accusations of sexual exploitation
Accusations that the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei was sexually exploiting girls in their areas of operation have been rejected.
Communities in Gok Machar, Bahr El Ghazal State, petitioned for their removal last week, alleging that the peacekeepers were acting improperly and engaging in sexual exploitation.
Peacekeeping forces are stationed in Gok Machar to guarantee that the safe demilitarized buffer zone (SDBZ), which stretches 10 kilometers inland from the boundary between South Sudan and Sudan, is observed.
The locals organized a demonstration and handed in a petition requesting that the peacekeepers depart within 72 hours.
The accusations, according to the UN troops’ spokesperson, Daniel Adekera, are a “planned effort to damage the mission’s reputation.”
He said that no complaint on sexual exploitation had reached the mission.
“If and (any) information of that kind was made to the mission, the mission would have handled severely with anybody involved,” Adekera added.
“UNISFA, like the UN in general, has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and exploitation and will take severe disciplinary action against any peacekeeper, regardless of their rank.”
Adekera was perplexed as to why the topic was included in the petition.
“UNISFA sees it as a deliberate effort to smear the mission’s image at a crucial moment when both the mission and the authorities in Juba are attempting to resolve long-standing problems that threaten the mission’s mandate implementation,” he added.
Communities in Aweil East County staged a similar demonstration on Friday, requesting that troops at Majok Nyinthiou leave the post within 72 hours.
If the three-day deadline, which began on August 13, 2021, is not met, the villages have vowed to use force to remove UNISFA out of the region.
They claimed that UNISFA was trying to annexe a portion of their territory to Sudan.
Local teenagers have warned that if the mission ignores their peaceful request and stays beyond the deadline, they would resort to force.
“If we fail to do so, we will be forced to release them.” A member of the youngsters, Marko Amar Deng, informed Juba Echo over the phone.
The paramount chief of Aweil East County, Garang Malong Yoor, urged the peacekeepers to leave before the people become rowdy.
Chief Yoor said, “If they are still here, it will be out of our hands; please go away.”
After receiving an order from his superior leadership, Abraham Serytarz, the commander of the unit at Majok-Nyinthiou that received the petition, consented to leave the base.
“What has occurred in its context has no connection with the government and is never connected to the government agenda,” Abraham Wol Kom, the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state Minister of Information, told Juba Echo.
“It is an initiative that arose from young people attempting to peacefully protest to show the world that something is wrong,” he added.