Gov’t lifts ban on UNMISS Planes

By Nichola Dominic Mandil

The Government said on Monday, this week that it had lifted the ban imposed on United Nations Peacekeeping Mission’s planes that were prevented from flying and landing in Juba last week.

Last week, the government suspended UN Peacekeeping Mission or UNMISS’ planes due to what the government called “violation of working relations.”

A British military plane was also denied landing permit at Juba International Airport.

UNMISS flights were suspended by the government ostensibly due to disagreement over deployment of the Rwandan Contingent of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) at a UN Base near Juba International Airport.

The government alleged that the deployment of RPF in a close proximity to Juba International Airport was meant to control the country’s first landing spot.

On Monday, afternoon, the Council of Ministers met with all the heads of the Foreign Diplomatic Missions to South Sudan to resolve the dispute over UNMISS planes.

The ministers in charge of security in the country: Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior also attended the meeting.

Following the meeting chaired by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro, the Minister of Information, Michael Makuei, briefed the media during a news conference to explain what transpired during the Cabinet sitting with the Foreign Diplomats.

“The established procedure is that if you want a clearance, you apply. It is not automatic.”

“You apply that I am requesting security clearance for my plane to go this direction or for anybody to come in or to go out. This has been the system,” Makuei told the Press.

“What happened was that UNMISS decided to fly without resorting to that system. They decided to fly without clearance and as a result, they were stopped,” he added.

Makuei divulged that the government also denied landing permit for a British Military plane which was earlier approved, but due to the row, it was not allowed to touch the ground inside South Sudan.

“A British plane came loaded with their equipment (its approval was given earlier) but because of the suspension, they should have come back to renew the clearance. So when that plane came, it was returned. This is what happened.”

Makuei said that following the meeting with diplomats, what he dubbed “misunderstanding” between the government and UNMISS was resolved and UNMISS planes were granted security clearance to fly.

“The order has been canceled and the clearance is now open. If UNMISS wants to move, go anywhere, they must follow the correct procedure and that is to apply to the office that is responsible for that task and the clearance will be done as usual.”

Fisseha Shawl, the Ethiopian Ambassador to South Sudan who spoke to the press on behalf of the Ambassadors, also confirmed that the misunderstanding was resolved.

“Today all heads of missions and ambassadors residing in Juba had a meeting with the government. The main issue, why we met today, was to clarify some misunderstandings on the deployment of the Regional Protection Force,” Ambassador Shawl said.

He added saying, “We as IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), have come with the idea of having the troops on the ground, the government of South Sudan has shown us good cooperation and the RPF have started to come.”

However, the Ethiopian Diplomat said the misunderstanding that surfaced as a result of the deployment of RPF contingents from Rwanda, Bangladesh and Nepalat UNMISS Thong-Ping base, was quickly resolved.

“We discussed that misunderstanding very well and the government resumed its full cooperation. The government representatives called us and they told us they have cleared everything and cooperation is there now.We said fine.”

The RPF, whose deployment created a row with the government was authorised by the UN Security Council on 12th August 2016, to provide security in Juba following renewed violence that occurred at the State House (J-1), on 8th July last year.

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