The top United Nations official in South Sudan today called for an end to the “cycle of violence” engulfing the newly independent country’s state of Jonglei, where hundreds of people have been killed in recent days in fighting between ethnic groups.
At least 600 people have reportedly died and unconfirmed reports indicate almost 1,000 others were wounded during clashes between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities in Jonglei, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a press release.
The attacks have followed large-scale cattle raids – a persistent problem in South Sudan – by members of the two groups which have led to the theft of between 26,000 and 30,000 cattle.
Many homes have also been destroyed during the fighting, UNMISS said, and local authorities have reported that nearly 200 people may have been abducted and thousands of others displaced.
Voicing deep concern about the attacks, Hilde Johnson, the head of UNMISS and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, urged all ethnic communities to exercise restraint.
“This cycle of violence must stop,” she said. “That so many people have been killed and injured again in such wanton destruction is unacceptable.”
Ms. Johnson said reconciliation efforts are urgently needed and she pledged the mission’s willingness to support such a process.
An assessment and verification team from UNMISS has already visited the areas where the clashes took place and will return today to help local authorities facilitate reconciliation efforts.
“The security of all South Sudanese people must come first,” Ms. Johnson stressed, adding her condemnation of the looting and destruction of humanitarian facilities in Jonglei.