Killing, abduction of civilians reduced in 2021 – UN

Displaced people flee violence in Abyei, South Sudan

By James Atem Kuir and William Madouk Garang

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has said that different forms of violence including killing, injury, abduction, and rape of civilians reduced by 42 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.

In its annual report on violence against civilians released yesterday, the UNMISS Human Rights Division said it recorded 3,414 civilian victims of violence in 2021 compared to 5,850 victims recorded in 2020.

The report seen by Juba Monitor on Thursday, stated that 75 percent of the victims of the violence were men while women and children comprised 14 percent and 11 percent respectively.

Most of the victims were men (75 per cent), followed by women (14 per cent) and children (11 per cent). In 2020, the Mission reported 5,850 civilian victims,” read in part the report.

The report also noted that cases of conflict-related sexual violence declined slightly from 211 in 2020 to 194 in 2021, but remained unacceptably high.

The report said that Warrap State recorded the highest number of victims of violence stemming from subnational conflict that also erupted in parts of Western Equatoria State, Jonglei States and Greater Pibor Administration Area (GPAA).

“Subnational conflict accounted for most victims in 2021. Warrap remained the state with the highest number of civilian casualties (24 per cent), followed by Western Equatoria (19 per cent), and Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) (17 per cent respectively).”

“Many of the victims were killed or injured during attacks by armed community-based militias across Jonglei and the GPPA. In May 2021, violence surged with at least 230 killed, 120 injured, 178 abducted, and 14 women subject to conflict-related sexual violence,” the report stated.

UNMISS Human Rights Division said it also documented a concerning surge of fighting was also documented in Tambura, Western Equatoria, between ethnic militias allegedly affiliated with conventional parties to the conflict.

“Such violence resulted in 440 deaths, 18 injured, 74 abductions, 64 victims of sexual violence and an estimated 80,000 people displaced,” the report further said.

The report also indicated that UNMISS deployed peacekeepers proactively as well as pre-emptively to conflict hotspots and conflict areas.

The Mission established 116 temporary operating bases last year which enhanced the protection of civilians through sustained long and short distance patrols, it added.

Violence has however escalated in recent weeks as intercommunal clashes erupt in Jonglei, Unity and Warrap states, leading to loss of lives and properties.  

In recent clashes in Agok area along the border between Warrap State and Abyei Administrative Area, scores of civilians including one humanitarian worker were killed while huts and other structures were torched.

The violence has led to withdrawal of services in the restive area of Agok and calls for immediate halt of violence to allow for smooth delivery of assistance across the country have since intensified.

Save the Children and Medicines Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders (MSF) organizations have suspended their operation in Abyei, and relocated staff due to the violence that erupted a week ago.

In statement by Deputy Chief of UNMISS on Wednesday, Ms. Sara Beysolow Nyanti said the shaky situation has made it hard to deliver humanitarians assistance to the needy. 

“These appalling acts of violence against civilians and humanitarians must stop. Every day, people in South Sudan are struggling to survive and violence has no place in a country determined to move forward towards peace,” Nyanti noted.

“Attacks against civilians and humanitarians and their assets, along with the destruction and looting of aid supplies intended for the most vulnerable are unacceptable. They also severely impact our ability to deliver assistance,” she added.

She added that they were committed to alleviating the suffering of people affected by violence, food insecurity, among others as such aid workers require secure environment to do their operations.

“We need a safe environment to operate so that we can focus on what matters most: helping people in need in South Sudan,” she pleaded.

“The humanitarian community urges all parties to the conflict to respect international law and protect civilians and humanitarian personnel and assets; and calls on authorities to conduct a full investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Sara stressed.

On 10 February, a nurse working with an international aid organization was killed and several civilians, including aid workers, were injured in Agok town due to sub-national violence in Twic County, Warrap State, and the Abyei Administrative Area.

 Some 70,000 people have been displaced by the fighting; and humanitarian operations, including healthcare, have been temporarily suspended.

Also, on 10 February, an aid worker was killed by crossfire during fighting in MirMir in Unity State. Additionally, a women and girls friendly center was reportedly looted, a health and nutrition facility temporarily closed, and the access route to up to 500,000 people in need in Unity State has been jeopardized.

Again, in Unity State, on 12 February, a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle came under fire on its way to a health facility, resulting in the grave injury of three health workers.

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