South Sudan restricts UNMISS activities citing coronavirus crisis: report

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South Sudanese security forces had blocked several sites of the UN operation across the country and restricted the movement of its patrols after a UNMISS staff member tested positive last April.

In a regular report to the Security Council on 15 June about the activities of the UN Mission in South Sudan between 16 February 2020 and 31 May 2020, UN Secretary-General spoke about the impact of the coronavirus disease on Mission personnel and operations.

South Sudan which was one of the last countries in Africa to report coronavirus cases identified a UNMISS female staff member as the first confirmed case in the country on 6 April.

On the same day, the South Sudanese security services “blocked movements in and out of UNMISS compounds in Juba” (United Nations House), Kuacjok, Malakal, Rumbek, Torit and Yambio, said the report seen by Sudan Tribune.

Further, In Torit, security forces warned UN personnel not to leave their compounds and threatened to arrest anyone found outside and impound their vehicles.

“UNMISS patrols to several locations were restricted on the grounds of COVID-19 prevention. The security forces claimed they were acting on instructions from the high-level task force,” stressed the report.

At the time the South Sudanese First Vice President Riek Machar said the patient is a 29-year-old woman who arrived in the country from the Netherlands via Ethiopia on February 28.

South Sudan had already imposed a curfew, and other social distancing measures such to prevent the spread of the disease. Also, Borders had been shut and the Juba airport had been closed.

Pointing to the zealous behaviour of the government forces, the report said that they denied access to a UNMISS patrol to Opari Payam near Torit in Eastern Equatoria to monitor the progress of a quick-impact project.

Also, they physically assaulted a UNMISS national staff member, preventing him access to the United Nations House in Juba.

“On 9 April, following the engagement of my Special Representative with the authorities, the Government lifted restrictions in Juba, and subsequently on UNMISS compounds in Rumbek, Malakal, Kuacjok and Yambio,” reads the report.

For Torit compound, restrictions were lifted on 23 April on the condition that only essential movement takes place.

The UN chief also stressed that the security forces used the coronavirus to obstruct the UNMISS patrols and other activities.

“With the onset of the pandemic, the South Sudan Peoples’ Defence Forces continued to impede the Mission’s mandated activities in the area citing the implementation of COVID-19 prevention measures,” reads the report.

Source: Sudan Tribune

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