Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed deep concern today about continuing ethnic tensions in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, where there are reports of fresh rounds of deadly clashes and claims that thousands of armed youth are preparing to attack members of a rival community.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban spoke out about tensions between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities, echoing comments earlier this week by Hilde Johnson, the head of the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“The Secretary-General calls on the leadership of both groups to cease violence and to work with the Government toward a long-term solution to the root causes of the hostilities,” the statement said.
UNMISS has noted that high levels of cattle rustling and demand for high bridal dowries have helped to exacerbate existing ethnic tensions in Jonglei, one of 10 states in South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in July.
Air patrols by UNMISS last weekend identified thousands of Lou Nuer youth preparing to attack Murle communities near Likuangole, and the mission has reinforced personnel in key areas of Jonglei and stepped up patrols in a bid to dampen tensions.
In today’s statement Mr. Ban commended the efforts of the South Sudanese Government to calm the situation and to ensure that vulnerable civilians are protected.
Ms. Johnson stressed earlier this week that the Government bears primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of civilians in Jonglei.
More than 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed in ethnic clashes within South Sudan this year, with Jonglei one of the states worst affected by the violence. Thousands more civilians have been displaced from their homes.