Given escalating violence in the UN Protection site in Malakal, UNMISS reinforces presence of peacekeepers
JUBA – This morning, the sound of gunshots ripped through the usual stillness of dawn adjacent to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s base in Malakal, the capital of Upper Nile state.
Violence erupted among two displaced communities who are sheltering in the UN Protection of Civilians Site, triggered by a stabbing incident. The result: at least 13 civilians were killed and more than 20 others injured, as per reports received until 6 p.m. local time.
UNMISS peacekeepers were quick to deploy, since tensions had begun rising at the end of last week when a dispute at a water point escalated into full-fledged conflict and a 32-year-old man was killed.
“Being next door to the Protection Site with peacekeepers who routinely patrol the area to keep communities safe, we are always ready to respond robustly the minute we receive reports of unrest,” reveals Alfred Orono Orono, the Head of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in the state.
“During last week’s clashes, military and police peacekeepers reinforced their deployments immediately to defuse the situation. Today, we had extra boots on the ground soon after hearing guns being fired. Military peacekeepers and UN Police are currently patrolling both within the site and around the external perimeter, in partnership with the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces, to shore up confidence among the displaced community,” he adds.
“Additionally, our doctors at the UNMISS hospital are providing emergency care for some of the wounded.”
The Mission has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, urged communities to exercise maximum restraint and is gravely concerned about the loss of lives.
“As a peacekeeping mission, our core job is to help keep people safe and secure, though the primary responsibility to protect civilians lies with the government. The first pillar of protection is prevention, but in South Sudan, tensions often rise in a matter of seconds. We, therefore, rely hugely on partnerships with local interlocuters, working collaboratively to restore calm and order. We are grateful to state authorities and the Governor for their unconditional and active support in the past weeks,” avers Mr. Orono Orono. "But it's always a very hard day when people become casualties of conflict."
As of December last year, some 37,032 displaced individuals are sheltering at the Malakal Protection Site, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) biometric registration.