UNMISS, the African Union mission, regional bloc IGAD, the so-called Troika (United States, United Kingdom, and Norway), the European Union, and the body overseeing the peace agreement signed by the warring parties in South Sudan (R-JMEC), issued a statement on Wednesday, saying they were “gravely concerned about the escalating ongoing violence, loss of life and reports of alleged use of heavy weaponry”.
News reports quoting a local official said youths from the Nuer community had attacked members of the Murle ethnic group in Greater Pibor.
The fighting began when armed youths attacked the village of Lanam, according to Greater Pibor’s information minister. He told news outlets that members of both groups suffered fatalities, with 17 Murle community members among those injured.
The information minister for Jonglei state also reportedly condemned the fighting and called on young fighters from the state, to immediately end the violence, and return home. Both senior local officials called for central Government intervention to end the violence, according to news reports.
The world’s youngest country has been mired in violence which escalated not long after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, between Government forces led by President Salva Kiir, and fighters loyal to his rival Riek Machar.
The statement from the UN and partners urged combatants and supporters “to immediately cease hostilities, exercise restraint and respect human rights.”
They called on South Sudanese leaders “to urgently intervene to stop the fighting and ensure the safety and security of civilians as well as unimpeded humanitarian access to people affected by the fighting.”
They emphasized the need to investigate and hold all perpetrators of violence to account, “including those who are instigating and inciting violence and those responsible for the abduction of women and children.”
Dialogue, not fighting
The statement also strongly encouraged national politicians and traditional leaders to persuade young fighters to stop the violence and pursue “a dialogue-based approach that focuses on restoring calm and peacefully resolving the root causes of the conflict.”
While the primary responsibility for protecting civilians lies with the national Government, UNMISS and international partners reiterated that they are ready to provide all necessary support to protect civilians in affected areas.
Stepping up patrols
“UNMISS is intensifying patrols in conflict hotspots and closely monitoring the situation, noting that such fighting has in the past led to significant loss of life and large-scale civilian displacement.”
The statement also noted that the “uncalled for violence” posed a serious risk to the peace and stability of all South Sudanese, and called on the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, to investigate, urging the parties to the conflict, to facilitate access.