Escalating intercommunal conflict could unravel peace pact: Shearer
Escalating intercommunal clashes in South Sudan are causing immense harm to civilians and risk pulling organized armed groups into conflicts that could unravel the country’s peace agreement, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General said.
“Hundreds of people have been killed or injured, women and children abducted, cattle stolen, homes burnt to the ground and thousands forced to flee to escape the violence,” David Shearer,” David Shearer said on statement extended to Radio Tamazuj on Tuesday.
Shearer further said UNMISS recorded, between January and May this year, 415 violent incidents between communities, up from 129 documented in the same period in 2018.
He says while fighting between political parties has significantly reduced as factions broadly respect the ceasefire, the scope and intensity of the current outbreak of intercommunal violence could threaten this fragile peace.
Since December 2019, there has been an escalating cycle of violence in Jonglei involving the Dinka, Nuer and Murle communities.
Violent attacks by armed groups have also occurred in northern Unity State and on the borders of Lakes and Warrap states, with reports of further mobilization and potential revenge attacks.
“Fighters in uniform have been observed amongst those engaged in the violence indicating that more organized forces may be joining, which is a worrying trend, “said Shearer.
He added, “Tensions remain very high and we urge the groups to lay down their weapons and come together to reconcile.”
According to Shearer, despite COVID-19 challenges, UNMISS has carried out several peacekeeping patrols to the affected areas to deter violence and is engaging with key leaders to calm tensions and promote peace.
He said the UN mission would continue these efforts with the support of the national and local authorities.
In Central Equatoria, the statement said, clashes are continuing between the National Salvation Front (NAS), government and opposition forces, resulting in deaths and displacement of civilians, rape and sexual violence against women and girls, and destruction of properties.
“Much of the lawlessness and seizing of resources by armed groups stems from an absence of authority because political parties have failed to agree on the appointment of governors and local authorities in the 10 states,” said Shearer.
He urged the government and other parties to compromise and agree on these critical positions so the states can take steps to prevent conflict, build peace and assist with response to COVID-19.