Escalating intercommunal conflict could unravel the peace agreement
Juba, 9 June 2020: Escalating intercommunal clashes in South Sudan are causing immense harm to civilians and risk pulling organized armed groups into conflicts that could unravel the peace agreement, says the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer.
Between January and May this year, UNMISS recorded 415 violent incidents between communities, up from 129 during the same period in 2018. 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.
“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,” said David Shearer.
Violent attacks by armed groups have also occurred in northern Unity, near Ruweng, as well as 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 David Shearer. “Tensions remain very high and we urge the groups to lay down their weapons and come together to reconcile.”
Despite the 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. The Mission will continue these efforts with the support of national and local authorities.
In Central Equatoria, clashes are continuing between the National Salvation Front, Government and Opposition forces that have resulted in the death and displacement of civilians, rape and sexual violence against women and girls, and the destruction of property. The fighting is counter to the terms of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed by all parties under the auspices of the community of Sant’Egidio in January.
“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 David Shearer.
“Appointments need to be made now to help restore order. We strongly urge 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 the COVID-19 response which is vital given the rising number of cases across the country,” said David Shearer.