States, Lies and Videotape: South Sudan’s False Accusations of UNMISS

The following is unequivocal: there were no landmines in the United Nations trucks seized by the South Sudanese Army in Rumbek, in Lakes State on Friday, March 7th.  Guns and ammunition were found in the trucks and the Ghanaian peacekeepers and United Nations Mission in South Sudan have admitted the same, but landmines were not in the shipment.  The guns were being shipped overland against United Nations policy in vehicles whose shipping manifests reported as “food” or “general goods.” In response to the discovery, protests erupted in Juba and as far away as Melbourne, Australia.  The leaders of the protests have latched onto the accusations of the presence of landmines and have stoked passions against the United Nations.  Since violence broke out in December, thousands of people, including some believed to be loyal to ousted Vice President Riek Machar have sought sanctuary in the United Nations posts throughout the country.  The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, has accused the United Nations of running a “parallel government” in South Sudan and is using this arms seizure to discredit the UN (Voice of America; Deseret News; BBC News; Chimp Reports).

The UNMISS Force Commander, Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi, said that the items South Sudan sources have reported as landmines are canisters for gas masks to be used in “crowd control” situations, e.g., if peacekeepers need to use tear gas to disperse crowds such as those that have attacked UN posts.  (Talk of Sudan; Voice of America).  In an interview with Isaac Mugabi of Deutsche Welle, Ariane Quentier, the spokesperson for UNMISS said:

“I can only point you to the pictures that were produced by the government. If you look at these pictures and if you look at the objects that they call landmines – anyone who knows what a landmine looks like will immediately know that what is being displayed is not a landmine!”

Ms. Quentier is right, but not enough people know what landmines look like to be able to come to the correct decision.  So we will correct that now.  First, let’s look at the objects in question.  These are photos / screen shots of the items in question.

Screen-shot of seized items, video aired on South Sudan Television, image via www.Facebook.com

Screen-shot of seized items, video aired on South Sudan Television, image via http://www.Facebook.com

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=643638842337897

Screenshot from Twitter, via @josevieira

Screenshot from Twitter, via @josevieira

https://twitter.com/josesvieira/status/443032071712161795/photo/1

The Facebook screenshot is from video aired on South Sudan Television and you may go to the video and watch it yourself.

Now, let’s look at some landmines.  These images are all taken from the Collective Awareness to Unexploded Ordnance (CAT-UXO) website, www.CAT-UXO.com, and you may view all of these photos there.  The VS-50 and VM-1 anti-personnel landmines are similar in design (the VS-50 was made by Italy, the VM-1 by Iran) and I will grant you that they both bear a resemblance to the items in the photos above.  However, look at where the “ridges” are in the seized items.  They are on the top only and not along the sides as in the VS-50 or the VM-1.  The “knob” at the top of the seized items are also smaller, proportionately compared to the VS-50 and VM-1.

Italian-made VS-50 anti-personnel landmine, via www.CAT-UXO.com

Italian-made VS-50 anti-personnel landmine, via http://www.CAT-UXO.com

Iranian-made YM-1 anti-personnel landmine, via www.CAT-UXO.com

Iranian-made YM-1 anti-personnel landmine, via http://www.CAT-UXO.com

Looking at an anti-vehicle landmine, the Yugoslavian-made TMRP-6 has the “ridges” only on the top, but the ridges are much larger on the TMRP-6 than on the seized items and the seized items have a simple “knob” on top compared to the dual-tiered “knob” of the TMRP-6.

Yugoslavian-made TMRP-6 anti-vehicle landmine, via www.CAT-UXO.com

Yugoslavian-made TMRP-6 anti-vehicle landmine, via http://www.CAT-UXO.com

Yes, there are design similarities, but the seized items do not closely resemble landmines.  And please, do not just take my word for it.  Got to www.CAT-UXO.com and look at other landmine images.  You will see that the VS-50, VM-1 and TMRP-6 are the most likely matches to the seized items, but they are not exact by any means.

General Sakyi said that the seized items were canisters for gas masks, also referred to as respirators.  Take another look at the seized items:

Now, please look at the following:

Israeli-made gas mask canister, via www.Amazon.com

Israeli-made gas mask canister, via http://www.Amazon.com

This is an Israeli-made canister for a gas mask filter and you may find it yourself on Amazon.com (please note the gift-wrapping option): http://www.amazon.com/Original-Gas-Mask-Nbc-Filter/dp/B005KMFPSA/ref=pd_sim_indust_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=02249T268RDSY2W6YNJR

Check out the “knob” and “ridges.”  They are exact matches to what was seized by South Sudan’s army in Rumbek.  The seized items even have the same plastic string connecting the “knob” on top to the rest of the unit; in the images from Rumbek, the string is white and on Amazon, it’s black but I would say they are the same.

The United Nations does not use landmines anywhere and most certainly has not shipped them to South Sudan.  In South Sudan the United Nations has cleared more than 30,000 landmines from 1,100 square kilometers of land and 22,000 kilometers of road.  Did the United Nations ship guns and ammunition against its own policy?  Yes, and they have admitted as much.  But landmines?  No.  That’s a false accusation and needs to stop being made.

Michael P. Moore

March 19, 2014

Advertisements

11 Comments on “States, Lies and Videotape: South Sudan’s False Accusations of UNMISS”

  1. Mark Wani says:

    UNMISS may have not included weapons like landmines in the convoy of lorries driven across South Sudan but they were surely wrong to load weapons into a consignment of food and other needed martials in a conflict area like South Sudan.
    They did this also without informing the host country. Whether the weapons were for the Ghanaian peace force or Riak Rebels is immaterial. The sovereign country – South Sudan- which is a member of the UN should have been informed.
    I agree with you that the government of South Sudan may have overacted by accusing the UNMISS of adding Riak Machar and his rebel army. But the government is justified to ask as to why, weapons were loaded into UN marked trucks which were meant to carry food and other items to the displaced civilians
    Even, if the weapons were not meant for the rebels, the trucks could have fallen into rebel hands. UN convoys are high jacked in many conflict areas from DRC to Afghanistan. This means that the UN weapons- meant for Ghanaians troops- could have ended in the hand of Riak Machar rebel group, thus prolonging the war with more civilian death and destruction of lives and properties. Rebuilding towns like Bentiu , Malakal and Bor for instance, will take many years to be completed . Whether Kirr remains or Riak becomes the President of South Sudan, people of these towns and elsewhere in South Sudan, would have to start rebuilding their lives from scratch
    The government of South Sudan- which is desperately struggling to contain an armed rebellion – may be handling this problem wrongly. But this problem was caused by UNMISS They should have not loaded weapons into trucks carrying food to a war tone, South Sudan It is sad however that some UN personnel are falsely accused of supporting or siding with Riak as that is not the same as supporting violence.
    The United Nation is an agent of peace making and peace keeping and it cannot be a part of an armed conflict arming one side against the other.
    UNMISS on the other hand, should enter into a serious and constructive talk with the government of South Sudan settle their misunderstanding and both should focused on saving civilians and ending this meaningless violence.

    • Hi Mark,
      Thank you for your comments. I absolutely agree that there are more questions that need to be asked, answered and discussed and I think you make an excellent case. My intention was merely to dispel the rumors about the existence of landmines so that these questions and others can be addressed; the accusations of landmines were inflammatory and impeded any meaningful discourse. Hopefully now we can get to the bottom of what really happened and help move South Sudan closer to a true and lasting peace.
      michael

      • osiman Juma says:

        There is no doubt that is happening in south sudan the hands of the western countries and its wing call Unimiss hands are there in it formation n supporting it.the writer shouldn’t fool people on social media by giving examples of other landmine while he had failed to answer two fundamental questions that is y was it indicate in the way bills that they containers were taking food items. Secondly y did unimiss transport gun by road.third y were the host cointry was not inform about movement of guns .even child south sudan know very well that unimiss is there to implement uk and USA policy of regime change in south sudan.last Hilid johnson failed to clear the air

      • Thank you for my comment. I do not speak for UNMISS or any government. My goal was to dispel the false rumor that landmines had been part of the shipment. Your questions may deserve answers but that was not the intent of the post or within my ability to deliver.
        michael

  2. Agook Mayek says:

    Michael,
    To me your argument is quite clear, but one thing we must acknowledge is that South Sudanese have come a long way, and as things stand, it would be too difficult for the mediocre military experts in South Sudan to distinguish between the gas mass canisters and the anti-personnel landmines. Two, the SOFA is quite clear on weapons and ammunition transportation.It is such a regrettable move(apparently labeling by mistake) from the side of UNMISS for the guns and ammunition to be transported by road contrary to the SOFA. This is a very tempting stance from both the government and the people of South Sudan towards UNMISS, however the government should have waited for thorough and sufficient investigations before taking a critical step on UNMISS. The UN values and principles are quite clear, but the trouble is that the individuals in the senior positions may try to bend them for their own interests(humans are fallible), which could be punishable once investigated. In a nutshell, the ordeal is quite unfortunate, but it should be a “food for thought” for future operations from the side of UNMISS and the government as well!

    • Dear Agook,
      Thanks for you comment. I agree that the UN failed to live up to its principles and its own policies in this circumstance and I do hope that the damage to the relationship between the United Nations and South Sudan (and here I include both the people of South Sudan as well as its government) can be repaired.
      michael

      • Cuol tot says:

        Michael,
        Why are People More Concerned About what UNMISS has in their Trucks, Than To Ask the more obvious Questions like, What triggered the fighting?, Why were Nuer Civilians Gunned Down ON DEC 15 in broad daylight?, Why were government troops and ugandan troops Massacring Innocent Women, Children and Men of one Ethnic Tribe?. Why is it that Only Nuers are in the UNMISS camps?, Why is it that only east of south sudan is inflamed by war?, Why does the government keep relating back to 1991?, Is Kiir seeking revenge for 1991?, Was Kiir Drunk when he made the decision to attack Riek Machar?, Is Kiir The one calling Shots or is he a puppet of the west or middle east?,. And while our country is fighting each other, who is dusting our floors and hustling us from the back door?,.. What am saying is stop asking irrelevant questions and answer the important ones, because now is a good time to let everything out of our chest and begin new. The People of south sudan should be condemning the government and demand answers, Answer for questions like, Whats been happening to the budget since our independence?, The answers may be obvious but no one has asked them.. WATCH., NEW FOOTAGE OF PETER GADET.#.Freedomfighter

      • Thanks for your comment. I agree that the focus should be on the triggers of the conflict and not on the contents of UNMISS trucks which is why I wrote the piece I did: to dispel the inflammatory rumors.

  3. […] the country.  The convoy did have guns and riot suppression gear (tear gas and gas masks) but the accusation of landmines was completely false and reckless as was the accusation that UNMISS was arming the rebels (All Africa).  In fact, the United Nations […]

  4. […] This admission is not the first suspected violation of the Mine Ban Treaty by the Republic of South Sudan.  In the course of the current conflict between South Sudan and the SPLA / IO, the use of anti-tank landmines and cluster munitions have been documented, but South Sudan has denied the claims, blaming rebel forces for their use (AP Mine Ban Convention; The Monitor) and falsely accused the United Nations peacekeeping mission of using landmines (Landmines in Africa). […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s