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9 December 2014 – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has destroyed a deadly assortment of weapons confiscated from internally displaced persons (IDPs) living at its civilian protection sites, the Mission has announced, amid broader efforts to defuse tensions in the young country.
In a press release issued today, UNMISS declared it had fed 25 firearms, including AK-47s, and hundreds of knives, machetes and similar weapons, into a weapons shearing machine that “sliced” the items into unusable pieces.
The weapons had been previously removed from residents of the Mission’s IDP camps situated in Juba, South Sudan’s capital and were destroyed in a public event held at UNMISS’ Tomping compound and in the presence of foreign diplomats and members of the news media.
“To reassure all concerned parties that the weapons and ammunition will never be used to commit any acts of violence including human rights violations, UNMISS has decided to destroy these items in full public view,” Mission chief Ellen Margrethe Løj said. “These measures will maintain the civilian character of UNMISS protection sites.”
South Sudan has experienced several bouts of violence over the past few months, including an incident in which the UN base in Bentiu came under fire resulting in the wounding of one child. Meanwhile, a prior attack caused hundreds of people to seek shelter at the nearest airport. Approximately 340 civilians took shelter with the Organization’s “blue helmets,” and then were escorted to safety.
Political in-fighting between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started nearly a year ago and subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. The crisis has uprooted some 1.5 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.
The Mission noted that, since the crisis in the country began, all civilians and ex-combatants seeking shelter at the Mission’s compounds had undergone “thorough security checks” and surrendered all weapons in their possession. The weapons, UNMISS added in its press release, were subsequently “carefully inventoried and securely stored” with periodic searches of the protection sites conducted by UNMISS police to ensure the civilian character of the sites.
“These arms and ammunition have been recovered from civilians and ex-combatants regardless of their political loyalties or ethnic backgrounds,” Ms. Løj said.
“We hope that the destruction of all confiscated and ammunition in the Mission’s custody will help foster an environment that is conducive to the silencing of the guns and the restoration of peace to the world’s youngest nation-state.”
UNMISS will hold another weapons-destroying event on 10 December when it will detonate over 1,500 rounds of ammunition recovered from IDPs. Similar weapons and ammunition destruction events will be held later this month throughout the country at UN bases in Malakal, Nassir, Wau, Bentiu, and Bor.