South Sudan: Intercommunal fighting on the rise

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday condemned a fresh wave of intercommunal violence in the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, that has left hundreds dead across 28 villages in Jonglei State, according to local authorities.

“The reports from Jonglei State are appalling”, Michelle Bachelet said of fighting that broke out between 16 and 17 May, forcing thousands to flee their homes.

“This recurring pattern of violence, which continues to claim lives in South Sudan, has to stop,” she said. “I urge the Government to ensure measures are in place to investigate this violence and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted, and that victims and their families have access to justice, truth and reparations.”

Intercommunal fighting has been on the rise across South Sudan. In the first quarter of 2020, it was the main source of violence affecting civilians, having led to 658 deaths, 452 injuries, 592 abductions and 65 cases of sexual violence.

The nature of intercommunal fighting – long driven by tensions over access to water and grazing land for cattle – has taken on a militarized character in recent years, with military style tactics and military-grade weapons.

“State authorities must act to end these cycles of retaliatory violence, including by holding those responsible to account and promoting peacebuilding between individual communities”, Ms. Bachelet stressed.

Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou, reported that a Médecins San Frontières staff member, and two staffers from another humanitarian organization, were killed during intense fighting in and around the town of Pieri, in Jonglei. Several aid workers are still unaccounted for.