South Sudan and the United Nations are investigating reports that 500 police who were disarming civilians in Jonglei state abducted and raped women, a UN spokesman said.
South Sudanese and UN soldiers were sent by helicopter to two villages, Lukongule and Manyabol, that were reportedly attacked by the police over the past week, said Liam McDowall, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in the south.
“They are looking into whether reports of abduction of women and allegations of rape have veracity,” McDowall said by phone today from Juba, the capital. The original force of police has split into smaller groups, he said.
Jonglei Governor Kuol Manyang said the police were under the command of the army and were sent to Pibor County to carry out disarmament after being trained in Juba. After reports of poor conduct by the police, they were told they would receive further training in the state capital, Bor, Manyang said today by phone from the city.
South Sudan started a disarmament campaign in Jonglei after about 8,000 members of the Lou Nuer ethnic group attacked communities in Pibor County, homeland of the Murle tribe, in late December and early January. The Pibor County commissioner, Joshua Konyi, said about 3,000 people died in those attacks.
A group of non-governmental organizations including Washington-based PACT and the South Sudan Law Society urged the UN in April to withdraw support from the disarmament campaign in a report that alleged abuses including beatings and simulated drownings.
Jonglei, an eastern state bordering Ethiopia, is mostly covered by the Block B oil concession in which France’s biggest oil company, Paris-based Total SA, holds a 32.5 percent stake.
Total signed an exploration and production-sharing agreement with Sudan’s government in 1980, before suspending exploration in 1985 because of “escalating insecurity in the region, related to the civil war,” according to the company’s website.
Company spokesman Florent Segura said on Feb. 2 that Total submitted a “preparatory work plan” for resuming operations to the government, and was monitoring the Block B area “to ensure the safety of its personnel and contractors as soon as operations resume.”