The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) successfully carried out an extraction operation on Sunday, 1 November, safely securing the release of 13 UNMISS contractors, who had been crew on board a barge convoy transporting fuel to UNMISS’ base in Renk, Upper Nile State, and who were detained by SPLA in Opposition soldiers at Kaka, on 26 October.
A group of 18 international peacekeepers and Military Liaison Officers, who had also been a part of the barge convoy, were released earlier on 29 October.
The convoy equipment, a total of three vessels including the barge, have also been returned and are on their way to Melut, Upper Nile State.
On 26 October, the 31 personnel, comprised of 18 UNMISS uniformed personnel and 13 South Sudanese UNMISS contractors, were taken hostage by heavily-armed SPLA in Opposition soldiers, and the barge convoy, its equipment and cargo, including 55,000 liters of fuel, were confiscated.
While the barge was returned, the fuel cargo, communications equipment, an inflatable boat, and seven of the 16 UNMISS weapons taken on 26 October were not returned.
UNMISS reiterated its call to the SPLA in Opposition for the immediate release of all its equipment and cargo.
“UNMISS would also like to clarify media reports over the weekend stating its questionable involvement in the transportation of weapons,” the mission said in a statement.
The Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ellen Loej, strongly refuted the accusations “the barge was not transporting weapons cargo of any kind, in fact, all fuel cargo was bound for the UNMISS base in Renk, as a resupply,” said SRSG Loej.
She added: “While we, today, are relieved by the safe release of all UN personnel, the need for all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to fully respect unfettered free access and movement of UN personnel and assets cannot be underlined strongly enough. A similar incident should not and hopefully will not happen again.”