The South Sudanese rebels led by the former vice-president Riek Machar accused the regional bloc, IGAD, of aiding “government spies” in their controlled territories in violation of the regulations and procedures government the monitoring and verification activities between the warring parties.
The accusations come after the death by heart attack of a member of IGAD ceasefire monitors while they were detained by the rebels.
On Saturday, a helicopter of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) carrying IGAD-facilitated government monitors landed in the rebel held territory of Wachop, Wankai Payam, west of unity state’s capital, Bentiu, without permission or participation of the rebels’ component of the Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT).
The helicopter was impounded and its passengers detained by the rebel group.
“These are government spies. We wonder why IGAD facilitated their mission to our areas without our knowledge and participation,” Col Daniel Gatbel Kuach, member of the MVT representing the rebels told Sudan Tribune by phone from South Sudan on Sunday.
He further explained that the rebels’ eight-member component of the monitoring team last month filed a petition to IGAD demanding relocation of the main base from Juba to a neutral country, citing harassment and restrictions to their free movement as challenges.
Kuach said it was a violation for the government monitors to go to their areas unilaterally without their participation.
He also added that partial reports presented by government monitors will be deemed invalid without the input from the rebels.
GOVERNMENT MONITOR DIES
One of the government monitors reportedly died on Sunday of a heart attack under the detention of the rebels in the area, prompting accusing from the mediation team in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s Seyoum Mesfin, the chief mediator at the IGAD, which is trying to broker peace in South Sudan, said the rebels’ action was a violation of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the two warring parties earlier this year.
Seyoum confirmed that the incident happened early on Sunday in the oil-producing Unity state, but he did not disclose the total number of those being held or their nationalities.
A mechanism for implementing the 23 January cessation of hostilities agreement was established to monitor and verify violations, but with representatives from the two parties and IGAD moving together to verify allegations.