Speaking to witnesses, including representatives of the African Union, the European Union and diplomatic corps, Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Ellen Margrethe Loej said weapons were destroyed in full public view to dispel doubts.
She added that the move was part of efforts to create and promote peace in South Sudan and to enhance the safety of both IDPs as well as UNMISS personnel and aid workers in the mission’s protection sites.
“In most instances, these weapons have been surrendered by civilians and ex-combatants seeking shelter at the sites,” she said. “In other cases, they have been confiscated during operations that UNMISS periodically conduct inside the protection sites.”
Using a weapons-shearing machine, the UN Mine Action Service crushed into unusable pieces the weapons, including 10 pistols, 15 AK47 assault rifles and a total of about 500 knives, machetes, pangas and spears, as well as iron and wooden bars.
The UNMISS chief noted that this was the first in a series of such weapons and ammunition destructions that will take place throughout December.
Similar exercises have been planned in Malakal and Nassir in Upper Nile State, as well as Bentiu, Bor and Wau, the state capitals of Unity, Jonglei and Western Bahr El-Ghazal states respectively.
The SRSG dismissed rumours that IDPs occasionally broke into the mission’s container to steal confiscated weapons.
“UNMISS has kept a careful inventory of the arms and ammunitions it has seized and there is no truth whatsoever to the baseless rumors that IDPs have broken into containers housing these items and stolen their contents,” said Ms. Loej.
In addition to weapons, searches also sought to rid protection sites of other substances like alcohol, drugs and other contraband, she said.
The SRSG called for restraint among the warring parties in South Sudan as the country approaches the first anniversary of the conflict.
“As we approach the anniversary of the outbreak of hostilities between government and opposition forces on 15 December, I call upon the warring parties to refrain from further acts of violence and fully abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement,” she appealed.