Community leaders issued an apology on Monday after rioting on 21 November by “drunken youth” within a UN Protection of Civilians site run by UNMISS in South Sudan, left two dead and eight UN personnel injured, including five police officers.
Last Thursday’s clashes erupted between intoxicated youth in the northern town of Bentiu, and when UN police from the Mission attempted to intercede and restore order, the rioters turned on the officers, pelting them with stones and sticks.
UN Protection of Civilians sites, or PoCs, serve to provide sanctuary to people fleeing violence and conflict, thus, “it is unacceptable for community members to commit violence against each other or against peacekeepers who do their best to provide protection to vulnerable displaced families,” UNMISS said in a statement.
A delegation from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, SPLA-IO, met with community chiefs at the protection site on Sunday, condemning violence between youth and other displaced people and UN personnel, promising assistance to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
One day on from the incident, UN civilian staff met with the family of a victim who had died during the violence from his injuries, to express condolences. During this time, a group of youths vandalized an UNMISS vehicle, setting it on fire, and also attacked the staff members, hitting one with a stick and “cutting another with a spear”.
“The youth also turned on Ghanaian peacekeepers who responded to the incident, pelting them with stones, throwing spears and petrol bombs, one of which hit a vehicle and set it on fire”, said UNMISS. “Youth also tried to seize weapons from the peacekeepers and vandalized two guard-posts. Two warning shots were fired into the air to disperse the rioters.”
With the assistance of community leaders, the UNMISS is launching an investigation into the rioting, including a probe into the deaths.
As of 7 November, a total of 190,455 civilians were sheltering at various PoC sites on UNMISS bases, with 117,767 in Bentiu alone – the largest population compared to other regions in the country by far.
As the world’s youngest country, having gained independence from Sudan just eight years ago, South Sudan has been wracked by civil war for most of the time since.
Fighting escalated in 2013, triggered by clashes between supporters and army personnel loyal to President Salva Kiir, and forces loyal to his rival and former deputy, Riek Machar.
The leaders had been due to form a unified transitional Government early this month, aimed at ending years of conflict, but stakeholders and international mediators agreed to a 100 day extension of the 12 November deadline.