The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan today stressed the need to press ahead with the reconciliation process in Jonglei state where another outbreak of inter-ethnic violence earlier this week left more than 40 people dead, most of them women, children and the elderly.
The killings on Monday in the villages of Jalle payam (or local district), Bor South county, and Twic East county underline the importance of the Jonglei peace process, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a press release. Homes were burned and large numbers of livestock stolen during the raids.
UNMISS condemned the violence and urged the Government of South Sudan, traditional leaders and other authorities to strengthen efforts to bring the bloodletting to an end and to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Intense rivalry between the Luo Nuer and Murle communities in Jonglei, often over cattle rustling, frequently spark outbreaks of bloody clashes that have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced this year alone.
“This cycle of violence has to stop,” said Hilde Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of UNMISS. “While respecting their need to protect themselves, the communities of Jonglei should be encouraged to refrain from mobilizing their fighters since this will only perpetuate the grisly cycle of mass violence and retaliation.”
UNMISS is supporting the church-led Jonglei peace process as well as preparations for the Luo Nuer-Murle peace conference and the All Jonglei State Peace Conference in January.
The mission’s personnel visited Jalle payam and Bor South county this week and helped evacuate some of those wounded in the violence to a hospital in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. UNMISS has also deployed aerial reconnaissance flights and integrated teams to the area to help stabilize the situation.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced grave concern over the plight of 20,000 refugees in South Sudan who are increasingly at risk as fighting rages near the border with Sudan.
Melissa Fleming, a UNHCR spokesperson, told reporters in Geneva that while fighting in the Jau border area has not directly affected nearby Yida refugee settlement, fears of attack have sent some refugees fleeing into the surrounding bush.
“The escalating insecurity has also affected humanitarian access and the flow of aid, causing assistance at Yida to be disrupted repeatedly,” she said.
UNHCR is working with partners to provide emergency services such as food, water and health care for the refugees, who fled Sudan’s Southern Kordofan region in recent months. Between 60 and 110 people continue to arrive in Yida every day.
“We fear that the fighting could spread to Yida, which was hit by air strikes in November. UNHCR is speeding up efforts to relocate the refugees away from the volatile border, to new sites that can offer more safety and assistance further inside South Sudan,” said Ms. Fleming.
Most refugees have been reluctant to leave Yida, preferring to remain closer to their homes in Sudan, according to UNHCR. They are also concerned over the risk of landmines on roads further south.
To ensure safety, the UN Mine Action Centre is carrying out surveys and mine clearance. UNHCR hopes to relocate the first group refugees willing to move as soon as it is certain that it is safe to so.
In a related development in eastern South Sudan, refugees are still arriving at a rate of 650 per day fleeing from neighbouring Sudan’s Blue Nile state. A group of 10,000 refugees were recently identified near Elfoj in Maban county in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, Ms. Fleming said.
Thousands more are believed to be stranded in remote locations along the border and UNHCR and partners are working on a new settlement in Maban to accommodate them, in addition to Doro site, which already hosts 20,000 people who arrived recently from Blue Nile.
In total, South Sudan has received more than 50,000 refugees from Sudan’s Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states in recent months.
Nearly 33,000 Sudanese refugees have gone to neighbouring Ethiopia since June, most of them having the fled conflict in Blue Nile. They include more than 18,000 people hosted in two camps and a transit centre, and an estimated 14,000 living among the host community in border areas.