South Sudan president says UN staff back rebels

President Salva Kiir accuses UN workers in his country of siding with rebel fighters seeking to overthrow him.

The relationship between South Sudan and the United Nations (UN) is souring during a critical time of conflict and mass death inside the world’s newest country.

After a month of fighting between President Salva Kiir’s government and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, the UN suddenly finds itself under verbal attack from South Sudan.

An Information Ministry spokesman said the UN has no respect for the government, while Kiir’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, on Wednesday said the UN is sheltering armed rebels in its camp in Bor, the capital of Jonglei state. Kiir also accused the top UN representative in South Sudan of wanting to be co-president.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera’s Jamal ElShayyal, Kiir discussed his strained relationship with the UN. “We are the 193rd member state of the UN,” he said. “There can be no way that we can be enemies to the UN. It is the individuals within the UN system who are creating problems. If we talk about what is the role of the UN, yes they have the mandate which they are here for, whether they are dong it effectively or not… That is their mandate…They allowed the rebels: either they took them by force or they gave them their vehicles and then they came and mounted these vehicles with machine guns to fight our forces with.”

ElShayyal clarified: “So you are accusing the UN of: 1. Double standards when it comes to this current conflict and 2: Of tacit support to the rebels by either handing over vehicles or turning a blind eye to their vehicles being used to mount machine guns. Is that your accusation?”
Kiir replied, “Not the whole UN; it is this group that are here with us…”

“So UN staff in Juba and South Sudan have given tacit support to the rebels?”

“Of course,” Kiir said.

Kiir also rejected UN allegations that his forces may have committed war crimes. “I am confident that our forces acted according to the international laws,” he said. “It is not now that we are ruling our own country that we are going to abuse our own people. I will not accept that. What I do not like is these blanket accusations. ‘Both sides have done this’ is a very vague term. It was Riek Machar who destroyed Bor.”

Ariane Quentier, UN Mission in South Sudan spokesperson in Juba, declined to comment on Kiir’s accusations. “He’s been saying this about us for the past five days.”

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