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Activity logs of GSDF peacekeepers in South Sudan thrown out amid doubt over cease-fire

Kyodo

The daily activity logs compiled by Self-Defense Forces troops in South Sudan have been dumped, which will make it difficult to examine what their U.N. peacekeeping activities entailed in July, when 270 people were killed by fighting in the war-torn nation.

Officials from the Joint Staff of the Defense Ministry, which disclosed the move on Saturday, said the logs, compiled by members of the Ground Self-Defense Force, have been discarded entirely — including in digital form — because they had “ended their useful purpose.” The information in the logs has been relayed to their superiors, the officials added.

The news comes amid concerns that security in the young African country has deteriorated so badly that the GSDF will have to be withdrawn. Some experts have noted that South Sudan no longer meets the government’s cease-fire condition for participating in a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Internal ministry rules stipulate that records related to U.N. peacekeeping operations must be stored for three years, but those that “arise on an unscheduled basis and end their purposes within a short period time” can be discarded, a senior ministry official said.

The official with the Joint Staff said information in the discarded daily activity logs has been reflected in documents compiled for new arrivals to some extent.

The Self-Defense Forces were deployed to South Sudan in November 2011. The GSDF’s civil engineering corps has been in the capital Juba since January 2012. Its 11th contingent, however, now can carrying out rescue missions for peacekeepers and U.N. staff even if the troops themselves are not under attack.

In July this year, more than 270 people died in “a large-scale clash” between government forces and rebels in Juba. Gunfire was reported around the GSDF camp there.

These developments have prompted some observers and opposition lawmakers to doubt that a cease-fire agreement is in place. One of five conditions for Japanese participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions is that all parties to an armed conflict must be observing a cease-fire.