South Sudan clashes kill 166, displace 20,000+: UN
The UN official warns that unless local authorities act to contain and de-escalate the situation, the clashes risk spreading beyond the region of the Upper Nile.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a report on Wednesday that the violence among ethnic groups in South Sudan's Upper Nile state has resulted in the deaths of 166 civilians and displaced more than 20,000 since August.
"At least 166 civilians have been killed and 237 injured in the last four months as clashes have intensified between armed elements, and between rival community-based militias in the region. Over 20,000 people have been displaced due to the violence since August. Reports indicate random shooting of civilians," the report says.
Last September, about 173 civilians were killed and 37 were kidnapped within four months in southern Sudan in fighting between forces loyal to Kiir and those loyal to Vice President Riek Machar, according to an earlier report by the UN, which also condemned the many cases of sexual violence.
South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, but it slid into a civil war two years later that left nearly 400,000 people dead.
Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2018, sporadic acts of violence continued between the government and opposition forces, in addition to conflicts between ethnic groups within the country which resulted in major casualties among civilians.
The most recent round of clashes was renewed in mid-November in the Upper Nile's village of Tonga and spread to northern parts of Jonglei and Unity states.
"These killings, along with reports of gender-based violence, abductions, destruction of property and looting, are severe human rights violations and abuses and must stop," Volker Turk said in today's statement.
South Sudan's army spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang said the violence had decreased since the military deployed forces to push ethnic fighters of rival communities back. He could not say how many soldiers had been sent.
"It is just a matter of time before the situation will be brought under control," Koang said, as quoted by Reuters.
The UN official warned that unless local authorities act to contain and de-escalate the situation, the clashes risk spreading beyond the region of the Upper Nile.
"It is important that the government of South Sudan conducts a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the violence and brings all those responsible to account in accordance with international law," he said.
UN special rapporteur on trafficking in persons Siobhán Mullally said in a statement that the clashes have resulted in an increase in abductions and sales of children, noting that "conflict-related sexual violence including trafficking, remains a serious concern."
Last week, the office of the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir said in a statement that the President cannot stop the violence in the Upper Nile alone.
"To anyone who might have mistakenly read this statement that way, let me clarify that the President was referring to the complex nature of actors behind this violence that makes providing immediate solutions challenging," the statement reads.
"Despite this complexity, the President is determined to do whatever it takes to end the violence in the Upper Nile and other regions in South Sudan where our people are killing each other."
🟥 CLARIFICATION:— South Sudan Government 🇸🇸 (@SouthSudanGov) December 7, 2022
While deploring the sub-national violence in the Upper Nile region, President Salva Kiir said he cannot stop it alone. Some media houses took this statement out of context by insinuating that the president has taken his hands off this issue.⬛️ #SouthSudan pic.twitter.com/zR4IAcfaJR