South Sudan: Sharp decline in violence against civilians

Displaced families who fled violence take shelter in Tambura in South Sudan.
UNMISS
Displaced families who fled violence take shelter in Tambura in South Sudan.

South Sudan: Sharp decline in violence against civilians

Peace and Security

Reported incidents of violence against civilians fell by around 42 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year, according to a new report released by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday.

The UNMISS Human Rights Division’s annual brief on violence affecting civilians, documented 3,414 civilian victims subjected to killing, injury, abduction, and conflict-related sexual violence, out of 982 recorded cases.

Mostly male victims

Some 75 per cent of the victims were men, while 14 per cent of cases involved women, and 11 per cent, children.

This compares with 5,850 civilian victims documented in 2020. Cases of conflict-related sexual violence declined slightly from 211 in 2020, to 194 in 2021, but remained “unacceptably high”, said UNMISS in its press release.

Subnational conflict accounted for most victims in 2021. Warrap remained the state with the highest number of reported incidents, accounting for 24 per cent, followed by Western Equatoria (19 per cent), and Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) (17 per cent each).

An UNMISS officer discusses water scarcity with farmers to help prevent conflict between with the crop farming community in Kworijik, South Sudan.
UNMISS/Isaac Billy
An UNMISS officer discusses water scarcity with farmers to help prevent conflict between with the crop farming community in Kworijik, South Sudan.

Militia attacks

Many of the victims were killed or injured during attacks by armed community-based militias across Jonglei and the GPPA.

In May last year, violence surged with at least 230 killed, 120 injured, 178 abducted, and 14 women subjected to conflict-related sexual violence.

A concerning surge of fighting was also documented in Tambura, Western Equatoria, between ethnic militias who are allegedly affiliated with conventional parties to the conflict, said the report.

Such violence resulted in 440 deaths, 18 injured, 74 abductions, 64 victims of sexual violence and an estimated 80,000 people displaced.

UNMISS deployed peacekeepers proactively as well as pre-emptively, to conflict hotspots and conflict areas throughout the year.

Displaced people flee violence in Abyei, South Sudan. (file)
© UNOCHA/Dan De Lorenzo
Displaced people flee violence in Abyei, South Sudan. (file)

Abuses must be investigated

The Mission established 116 temporary operating bases last year which enhanced the protection of civilians through sustained long and short distance patrols.

At the same time, UNMISS engaged in political and community consultations at the local, state and national level, adopting a Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus approach.

UNMISS is urging the Government of South Sudan to investigate human rights violations and abuses wherever they are taking place, and to hold all perpetrators accountable, particularly as violence continues to surge in several parts of the country.