A picture showing the looted warehouse by armed group in Pibor (Photo credit to WPF)

 173 civilians killed in in South Sudan’s northern oil-rich region since February: UN

By Denis Elamu

At least 173 civilians have been confirmed killed in South Sudan’s northern oil- rich region of Unity State in a period of four months since fighting between government troops and opposition forces broke out in February.

This was revealed Tuesday in a joint report issued in Juba, the capital of South Sudan by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

It notes that the fighting that lasted till May 31 in southern Unity state between government forces  supported by affiliated armed militias and elements of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army -in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) under First Vice-President Riek Machar left 12 injured, and 37 women and children abducted.

“Human rights violations were committed with impunity. The government is duty-bound under international law to protect civilians, investigate allegations of human rights violations and hold suspected perpetrators accountable in compliance with fair trial standards,” Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of UNMISS said.

These human rights violations  were confirmed based on 32 verification missions conducted by UNMISS in three counties  of Koch, Leer and Mayendit  and neighboring areas in Southern Unity state.

The report says that hostilities in southern Unity state affected at least 28 villages and settlements

UNMISS identified joint government forces and allied militias reportedly operating under the command of officials of Koch and Mayendit counties as the main perpetrators of the human rights violations and abuses.

Adding, that SPLM/A-IO led by Machar also perpetrated attacks in Mirmir Payam and Koch County.

“Many of the abductees were subjected to sexual violence, including girls as young as eight-years-old and a nine-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death. A total of 131 cases of rape and gang rape were documented,” it discloses.

UNMISS says an estimated 44,000 civilians were displaced during fighting from at least 26 villages.

South Sudan parties recently agreed to extend the transitional that was meant to expire in February 2023 till 2025, due to delays in completing critical pending tasks under the 2018 revitalized peace deal signed to end years of conflict since December 2013.

The graduation of the first batch of 21,973 unified forces on July 30th is seen as the first step by the transitional unity government to end intermittent violence in most parts of the youngest nation.

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