UN condemns ‘horrible’ wave of violence in South Sudan |

SAFETY PIN has strongly condemned the rapes committed by armed youths from Koch and Mayendit counties, located in the neighboring state of Unity, which have forced thousands to flee to safety.

Between February 17 and April 7, some 72 civilians were killed, at least 11 were injured and 64 cases of sexual violence were recordedaccording to UNMISS human rights teams, who have carried out 10 verification missions in the area.

Ensuring justice for victims

Two survivors reported being repeatedly raped and gang raped after they came out of hiding to find food for their children. Another woman who had recently given birth recounted that she was brutally raped and beaten for three days.

“I am deeply shocked by these horrific attacks on civilians in Leer. We must all do everything we can to ensure that victims and survivors get the justice they deserve and receive the care and support they need.” said Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS.

Displacement and looting

Initial reports from Leer county, located in Upper Nile state, indicate that some 40,000 people have fled the violence, with thousands reportedly crossing the Nile into Fangak, a community in Jonglei state.

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Thousands of cattle were raided during the attacks, while houses, humanitarian facilities and warehouses were looted and burned to the ground.

Meanwhile, the rainy season has already started, along with the risks of flooding, making conditions dangerous for thousands of displaced families. UNMISS is also investigating the violence in Mayendit and Koch counties, including Mirmir Payam.

The Mission has deployed additional peacekeepers to conduct regular patrols, including night patrols in the town of Leer, in order to prevent further loss of life.

They urge the authorities to act

While UN ‘blue helmets’ provide protection to displaced people and the humanitarian workers who care for them, UNMISS stressed that the protection of civilians “is above all the responsibility of the Government”.

The Mission has welcomed the initial steps taken by the authorities, including the formation of an investigation committee and the deployment of troops to restore security.

UNMISS works with leaders at the capital and state levels to mitigate the violence. Civil affairs teams are also meeting with communities for focus group discussions in conflict-affected areas.

“The Mission urges national and local authorities to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions and prevent further escalation and retaliatory attacks,” Mr. Haysom said.

“Impunity for human rights violations must end and perpetrators must be held accountable for these horrific crimes.”

Women return from collecting firewood in South Sudan's Unity state, which has seen alarming levels of gender-based violence amid escalating conflict and spiraling climate catastrophes.

©UNFPA South Sudan

Women return from collecting firewood in South Sudan’s Unity state, which has seen alarming levels of gender-based violence amid escalating conflict and spiraling climate catastrophes.

Women advocate for peace

Related to this, women in South Sudan have been pleading for peacethe top UN humanitarian official in the country said on Monday, following a visit to Unity and Upper Nile states from April 22-23.

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UN Humanitarian Coordinator Sara Beysolow Nyanti led a high-level delegation to the state capitals, Bentiu and Malakal, respectively, to assess needs on the ground and meet with people affected by violence and natural disasters.

Displaced women spoke of how insecurity, rape, and lack of livelihood and education opportunities are affecting their lives, stating that “this is not the life we ​​choose”.

Violence and tensions

Ms. Nyanti also condemned the ongoing violence in Leer County and the tensions of the conflict throughout the country, in the strongest terms.

The increased fighting this month has resulted in widespread devastation, he added, with scores of people killed and injured, women kidnapped and raped, homes burned and property looted.

“These atrocities occurred at a time when humanitarian workers are responding to mitigate suffering as a result of the rains and standing water from the 2021 floods, as well as preparedness activities to mitigate the impact of the oncoming rains and projected floods.” she said.

‘Tragic loss of life’

Innocent civilians have been killed in the violence, and the Humanitarian Coordinator mourned the loss of a staff member from the international non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) killed in Leer earlier this month while trying to flee an attack on his community.

“This tragic loss of life for those who are committed to saving other people’s lives is unacceptable,” she said.

Ms. Nyanti called on “armed actors” to respect international humanitarian law and immediately stop targeting civilians, women and humanitarian personnel and their property.

“Continuing violence makes it difficult to deliver humanitarian services to the most vulnerable, especially women, children, elderly and disabled people, and further worsens their already dire situation. The number of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance is growing, and we do not have the funds to reach those who already need it.” she said.

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This year some 6.8 million of the most vulnerable people in South Sudan will need urgent assistance and protection to save their lives. A $1.7 billion humanitarian response plan for the country is currently only about eight percent funded.