The United Nations Security Council this evening voiced alarm and outrage at the eruption of hostilities in South Sudan over the past week which left numerous civilians dead and injured and placed increasing pressure on the country’s already overwhelming humanitarian crisis.
In a statement to the press issued in New York, the Council “condemned in the strongest terms” a series of clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and Opposition forces in South Sudan’s Unity and Upper Nile states between 26 October and 2 November, adding that the deadly fighting had violated cessation of hostilities agreements and demonstrated “an absence of commitment by both sides to peace and the political process.”
The Council’s statement comes on the heels of yesterday’s briefing by UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in South Sudan, Margrethe Løj, on the already tenuous situation in the young country.
South Sudan has experienced several bouts of violence over the past few months, including an incident in which the UN base in Bentiu came under fire resulting in the wounding of one child. Meanwhile, a prior attack caused hundreds of people to seek shelter at the nearest airport. Approximately 340 civilians took shelter with UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) troops, and then were escorted to safety.
Political in-fighting between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013 and subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. The crisis has uprooted some 1.5 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.
In their statement, the 15-member Council voiced “grave concern” that the UN base near Bentiu – where 49,000 internally displaced persons are currently sheltering – had once again been within proximity of the hostilities and that the new fighting was “magnifying an already serious humanitarian crisis” in the country.
The members “strongly demanded an immediate end to all violence and reiterated their demand to end human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.” In addition, they called on both President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to reach agreement through the ongoing IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in South Sudan.
The Council also reiterated its “steadfast support” for UNMISS and its “vital mission” in the country while condemning the recent detentions of three UNMISS personnel and the kidnappings of two UN-affiliated personnel.
“The members of the Security Council demanded their immediate and safe release, and called upon the Government of South Sudan to swiftly investigate these incidents and to ensure that justice is served,” the statement added.