UN to remain in Bentiu, despite bombings

18 Apr 2012

UN to remain in Bentiu, despite bombings

17 April 2012 - Despite a spate of recent aerial bombardments on Bentiu, Unity State, the markets are open and civilians as well as international agencies are carrying out day-to-day activities.

UNMISS and UN agencies will remain in the area as long as it is safe to do so, continuing to assist the government in protecting civilians, according to UNMISS Unity State Officer-in-Charge Waldemar Vrey.

To this end, the mission was supporting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees with plans to transfer refugees from Yida in the north of the state to the safer location of Nhial further south, Mr. Vrey said. It was also assisting to demine key roads.

Bentiu has suffered three air strikes over the past week in a conflict between Sudan and South Sudan in the border area, which has left an estimated 13 dead and 25 injured.

Among the dead were women and children, who would be added to the list of South Sudanese martyrs, said State Information Minister Gideon Gatpan Thoar. Two of the wounded were children, who were being treated at Bentiu Hospital, he added.

"Our humanitarian partners are a witness to what is happening, and we are happy they are staying here with us," Mr. Thoar said. "We know how risky it is to stay."

But he said the bombings would not continue for long in Bentiu. "The government will find a solution to stop them. The situation will be brought to an end soon."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern in a statement on Monday about continued hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan, including its impact on innocent civilians. He called on both parties to end the fighting immediately, respecting international humanitarian law and protecting civilians.

UNMISS expressed concern in a statement the same day about continued aerial bombing in areas populated by civilians in Unity and Warrap states.

"The loss of civilian lives as a result of indiscriminate bombings in Bentiu and Mayom is unacceptable," Hilde F. Johnson, UNMISS Special Representative to the Secretary-General (SRSG), said in the statement.

"It is the responsibility of the parties to hostilities to respect the physical integrity of civilians and their right to live without fear of displacement," the SRSG said.