The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan today strongly condemned the killing of a humanitarian worker, as peace talks to end fighting in the world’s newest country resumed in Addis Ababa.
“UNMISS is deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Bunj, Maban County,
Upper Nile State,” the UN peacekeeping mission said in a statement, noting that it has no military or police presence in the city.
In addition to its own staff, the UN is protecting more than 125,000 Sudanese refugees there “threatened since they depend on relief and services provided by aid workers.”
Since yesterday, the town has been the site of clashes between a community-based self defence militia calling itself the Mabanese Defence Forces and deserting soldiers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
“Elements of this militia have been moving around the town, approaching offices of humanitarian organizations and asking if they have any Nuer employees,” according to the UN statement.
A staff member from a humanitarian non-governmental organization was shot and killed this morning.
The UN humanitarian coordinator in the country, Toby Lanzer said he was “appalled and saddened” by the news.
“In the past days, violence and harassment of civilians and aid workers – including based on their identity – has increased in the area,” Mr. Lanzer said in the statement.
“Such crimes put the humanitarian operation in Maban at risk, jeopardizing the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children who count on aid organizations for their survival,” he added.
Mr. Lanzer and UNMISS called on the militias to respect the inviolability of the UN premises and appealed to national authorities to protect the facilities. The Mission also urged national and state authorities to “rein in the militia elements before the situation descends into lawlessness.”
An estimated 1.5 million people have been uprooted in fighting that started with a political impasse in mid-December 2013 between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. The conflict also sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country.
Representatives of the two feuding sides and their supporters have now reportedly resumed in the Ethiopian capital. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which is overseeing the talks, has set a 10 August deadline to agree on a transitional government.