A patrol of military and civilian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has reached communities in Pieri, in northern Jonglei, who were affected by a series of intercommunal clashes at the weekend.
The team is investigating reports that many people were killed, injured and lost their homes during the sudden outbreak of violence between armed Murle youth and Lou Nuer fighters. The patrol heard first-hand from local community members and military commanders about the impact of the violence, including testimony from relatives of people who were killed, injured and fled their homes.
It also witnessed the aftermath of the violence, including many tukuls (huts) burnt to the ground. However, it is difficult to verify the number of casualties given conflicting reports and claims.
“These violent assaults on civilian communities as part of an ongoing cycle of revenge must stop. While politically motivated conflict has reduced in South Sudan, intercommunal fighting has increased, causing massive suffering for families who are trying to rebuild their lives after the devastation caused by years of civil war,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer.
Some of the violence can be attributed to the failure of political parties to agree on the appointment of governors to the ten states, including Jonglei, which has created a vacuum of power that is emboldening those involved in the fighting.
“Appointments need to be made urgently. We strongly urge the Government and other parties to compromise and agree on these critical positions so the states can take measures to prevent conflict, build peace, and assist with the COVID-19 response,” said David Shearer.
“We are also deeply saddened that humanitarian workers lost their lives and suffered injuries during the intense fighting. These courageous people carry out life-saving work to support local communities and it is despicable that they have been targeted.”
In recent months, UNMISS has been intensively supporting efforts to deter intercommunal violence in the area by bringing representatives of the warring groups together for reconciliation and peace building meetings. However, restrictions on travel and the inability of large groups of people to meet due to COVID-19 prevention measures, have stalled the peace effort.
“The fresh outbreak of intercommunal violence is being fueled by the economic deprivation caused by devastating floods which wiped away many homes and killed thousands of cattle which families rely on for their survival,” said David Shearer.
“Those economic factors underly tit-for-tat revenge attacks, the worst of which occurred in mid-February, with a Lou Nuer offensive on Murle communities that resulted in hundreds of deaths to avenge persistent Murle raids on Lou Nuer villages.”
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan