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PIERI - 21 May 2020

UN peacekeepers investigate intercommunal clashes in Jonglei

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said Wednesday its patrol of military and civilian peacekeepers has reached communities in Pieri, in northern Jonglei, who were affected by a series of intercommunal clashes over the weekend.

The team, UNMISS said, is investigating reports that many people were killed, injured and lost their homes during the sudden outbreak of violence between armed Murle youth and Lou Nuer fighters.

The UN mission further said its patrol heard first-hand from local community members and military commanders about the impact of the violence, including testimony from relatives of those killed, injured or fled their homes.

 “These violent assaults on civilian communities as part of an ongoing cycle of revenge must stop. While politically motivated conflict has reduced in South Sudan, intercommunal fighting has increased, causing massive suffering for families who are trying to rebuild their lives after the devastation caused by years of civil war,” said David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General.

According to UNMISS, some of the violence can be attributed to failure of political parties to agree on the appointment of governors to the 10 states, including Jonglei, which has created a vacuum of power that is emboldening those involved in the fighting.

“Appointments need to be made urgently. We strongly urge the Government and other parties to compromise and agree on these critical positions so the states can take measures to prevent conflict, build peace, and assist with the COVID-19 response,” said Shearer.

He added, “We are also deeply saddened that humanitarian workers lost their lives and suffered injuries during the intense fighting. These courageous people carry out life-saving work to support local communities and it is despicable that they have been targeted.”

The UN mission said it has, in recent months, been intensively supporting efforts to deter intercommunal violence in the area by bringing representatives of the warring groups together for reconciliation and peace building meetings. However, restrictions on travel and the inability of large groups of people to meet due to COVID-19 prevention measures, have stalled the peace effort.

“The fresh outbreak of intercommunal violence is being fueled by the economic deprivation caused by devastating floods which wiped away many homes and killed thousands of cattle which families rely on for their survival,” further explained Shearer.

“Those economic factors underly tit-for-tat revenge attacks, the worst of which occurred in mid-February, with a Lou Nuer offensive on Murle communities that resulted in hundreds of deaths to avenge persistent Murle raids on Lou Nuer villages,” he stressed.