South Sudan Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA IO) forces have handed over 10 aid workers to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) after briefly detaining them.
The 10 aid workers, all staff of the United Nations Office for the Coordination Humanitarian Affairs were detained after the SPLA IO accused them of entering their territory without prior clearance.
A press release signed by the deputy spokesperson of the SPLA IO, Lt Col Paul Lam Gabriel read that all the 10 aid workers are safe and were handed over to the ICRC.
“It’s been confirmed this afternoon the 30/04/2018 at about 2:50PM that, the ICRC in coordination with Lt Gen Wesley Welebe and the Division 2B Commander Maj Gen John Mabieh Gaar picked up the 10 aid workers and are safely on their way to Juba,” he said in the statement.
The handover marked the second time aid workers have been detained and released from Yei River state due to the same problem this month. The rebels say they have no issues with aid workers, but will continue to deal with government spies who pose as aid workers to locate the positions of the rebel forces.
The SPLA IO accused the UNOCHA of deliberately sending its workers to the rebel controlled areas without prior information, saying such uncoordinated movements are dangerous to the lives of the aid workers.
“UNOCHA has time and again been sending aid workers to the SPLA IO controlled areas without prior notice to our Humanitarian department for clearance.
The SPLA IO on several occasions advised UNOCHA field coordinator to coordinate with our humanitarian wing by providing notice of their movements and activities in advance, unfortunately it is not forthcoming,” he said.
Lt Col Lam said; “This is undermining the leadership of the SPLM/A IO and it has to stop immediately as it has resulted into misunderstandings and endangering of lives of the workers and our displaced population.
UNOCHA should immediately take action to correct this to ensure smooth humanitarian flow to the suffering masses.”
The rebel forces also said they are holding a government agent who has been passing off as an aid worker, and have denied reports that Dr Riek Machar has ordered for his killing.
“The Leadership of the SPLA IO is strongly refuting the accusation trending on social media alleging that Dr Riek Machar has authorized the execution of Mr Gatwich Tap Nyuot who is termed to be an ICRC local staff arrested by SPLA IO in Akobo.
This accusation is baseless and meant to tarnish the image of the leadership of the SPLA IO. Mr Gatwich Tap is an agent of the regime and not an aid worker in anyway. He will be investigated and tried accordingly,” Lam noted.