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UPDF used cluster bombs in South Sudan, says UN report

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Uganda Chief of Defence Forces Katumba Wamala addresses UPDF soldiers deployed in South Sudan early this year. The UN says cluster bombs were used in UPDF-controlled areas. PHOTO BY DPU.  

By FREDERIC MUSISI

Posted  Sunday, May 11   2014 at  21:06

In Summary

Accusation. The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan says it had “found physical evidence” on the use of cluster munitions in the areas controlled by the UPDF and SPLA.

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Kampala.
A new United Nations report on the atrocities of war committed by both South Sudan government forces and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar has sucked the UPDF in the use of cluster bombs in the conflict.

The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) in the 61-page human rights report titled; “Conflict in South Sudan” said it had “found physical evidence” on the use of cluster munitions in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)/UPDF controlled Malek area of Bor County.

“While opposition forces controlled Bor Town, from December 31 to January 18, they pushed south, and heavy fighting occurred between government forces supported by the UPDF. Between 11 and 16 January, UNMISS is aware of several instances of aerial bombardments by Ugandan forces in areas south of Bor,” reads part of the report.

The denial
Both Uganda and South Sudan are reported to have denied the use of such kind of weaponry.
The UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, could also not be reached immediately for comment as his known phone number remained switched off.
However, state minister for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem described the findings as “rubbish”.

The report released on Thursday, adds that…“Cluster munitions can be fired in a variety of ways, including by being dropped from aircraft. They explode in the air, each cluster releasing about 150 bomblets over a wide area.”
A total of 94 states, including Uganda, in 2008 signed the convention against the use of cluster ammunitions as they “have wide area effects that do not allow a distinction between combatants and civilians and they leave behind large numbers of dangerous unexploded ordinance”.

Mr Oryem reiterated that Uganda is a signatory to the convention so there is no way it could be involved in the usage of these munitions.
But reports say approximately 20 per cent of the bomblets fail to explode but can do so years after they are dropped.
“Used in areas where civilians are regularly present during or after fighting, they are indiscriminate in their impact,” the report reads in part.

It adds: “While South Sudan is not a party to the Convention, Uganda has signed but not yet ratified it.”
The UPDF deployed in South Sudan, according to the government, on request of President Salva Kiir to help contain the fighting which has left more than one million people displaced and scores dead.

The report also details the indiscriminate killing and targeting of minority groups/tribes and foreigners like Ugandans, Kenyans, Eritreans and Ethiopians.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch was the first to point fingers at both SPLA and UPDF on the use of cluster bombs, often dropped from the air.