14 May 2013 - Concerned about violence, looting and displacement of civilians in Pibor, Jonglei State, UNMISS called on the South Sudanese government to act immediately against the perpetrators in a statement released by the mission today.
“UNMISS is particularly alarmed by reports about the involvement … of allegedly defected and ill-disciplined members of security forces as well as by statements issued by David Yau Yau’s … armed group demanding civilians to leave the towns of Pibor … and Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria State,” said the statement.
In addition to the “significant displacement of the civilian population out of Pibor”, the mission said it had also received reports of widespread looting of civilian dwellings and humanitarian organization premises.
“The Government of South Sudan has the primary responsibility to protect the population,” the statement said. “UNMISS has reported these incidents to the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and has demanded, at the highest level, that necessary measures be taken urgently.”
The statement also noted that UNMISS had reinforced its presence in Pibor with additional troops and deployed a military unit to protect pre-positioned food stocks.
In a similar statement yesterday, South Sudan UNICEF chief and Acting Humanitarian Coordinator Yasmin Haque said she was alarmed that “once again, the civilian population of… Pibor town have fled for their safety in large numbers”.
Dr. Haque said aid organizations had seen armed, uniformed personnel taking apart homes and breaking into small shops where those who had fled the town had placed belongings for safekeeping.
“Food and household items, including nutritional supplements for malnourished children, were stolen from humanitarian common storage facilities, just a few hundred meters away from the town’s military barracks and county commissioner’s offices,” she said.
“We have been told by some of our NGO (non-governmental organization) colleagues that their compounds were completely looted, and that everything inside – even fixtures like solar panels – have been taken,” Dr. Haque added.
Condemning the incidents, she said such attacks against humanitarian facilities made it harder to provide live-saving assistance to people affected by hostilities. Humanitarian organizations had been forced to relocate their staff and “only a handful of aid workers” remained in Pibor.
“The humanitarian community stands ready to provide neutral and impartial assistance to all civilians in need,” Dr. Haque said. “This can only happen if all parties respect and facilitate humanitarian activities, in line with their obligations under national and international law.”