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General News of Monday, 12 May 2014

Source: New Crusading Guide

Ghanaian soldiers stranded in South Sudan

Three Hundred Ghanaian soldiers on peace keeping operations in South Sudan have been caught up in a web of what could easily be described as a ‘Suicide Mission’ as all their weapons and operational materials have been seized by the South Sudanese government since the Ghanaian troops arrived there in February this year.

One of the soldiers (name withheld) who narrated the plight of the troops to The New Crusading GUIDE via telephone conversation said, the 300 man squad left the shores of Ghana in September last year en route to South Sudan to perform peace keeping duties upon the invitation of the South Sudanese government but they took a detour to Cote d’Ivoire for training and preparations for five months before they finally arrived at their destination in February.

He said it was upon their arrival at Rumberg, their supposed original base that their Commanding Officer, Lt Col. Atorro announced to them that there had been a change of plan and that they had to relocate to Denchi, a town which is known to have been seized and controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebels.

“Just as we were about to move our weapons and logistics to the new base, the South Sudan government forces swooped in on us and confiscated our container load full of ammunitions and logistics alleging that we were going to supply the rebels with ammunitions”, he stated.

He indicated that per their training, they were made to understand that a soldier’s life is his weapon and one does not move without them especially in a crisis or war zone but unfortunately they had been disarmed by the same government forces they set out to help upon their own invitation and in the process leaving them ‘naked’ without even a catapult to defend themselves in case of any rebel attacks.

“By this we are not saying we are scared or afraid to die but we must be able to defend our lives at all times but of course not with our bare hands against the might of assault weapons”, he emphasized.

Again, he recounted that the attack by Charles Taylor on United Nations Peace Keepers in Liberia was still fresh in people’s mind and one cannot simply down play the threat and the present danger they have been exposed to in the last three month.

He said, there appeared to be a break down in the chain of command and nobody seemed to care about whatever happens to them because even their Commanding Officer who led them to Sudan is already back home in Ghana after he was reported sick leaving them to their own fate.

Quizzed as to whether or not the authorities in Ghana are aware about their situation he stated that “our Force Commander is already in Ghana and we can presume he may have briefed the government through the Defence Ministry and again even recently the Ghanaian Commander of the UN forces in South Sudan visited us and we apprised him with the details of the situation only for him to return in a couple of weeks later to inform us that the matter had turned political and that they were still working things out with the Sudanese government.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Minister of Defence, Mr. Mark Woyongo, he admitted not knowing anything about the issues until recently and had since reacted swiftly as soon as he got wind of it by holding a meeting with the South Sudan Ambassador just last week Monday to apprise himself with the true situation on the ground and the way forward.

However, since he was not abreast with the issue in question, he referred The New Crusading GUIDE to speak to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) for further clarification.

But the paper managed to get hold of the Army’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Col. Mbawine Atintande instead who explained that the matter had come to their notice and that government was working assiduously to settle matters and also to allay any fear of a possible rebel attack on the Ghanaian soldiers in faraway South Sudan.

However, in the PRO’s attempt to expatiate on the root cause of the whole issue, he intimated that it was rather the United Nations Command in South Sudan who mislabeled the Ghanaian weapons and logistics container as construction material but upon scanning it showed otherwise and that is how come the government forces confiscated it in the Ghanaian troops attempt to change base to Denchi, a town captured and controlled by the rebels.

So, the question is; why would the UN want to mislabel ammunitions just to get it across to a rebel dominated town?