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UNMISS deploys peacekeepers amidst fresh outbreaks of communal violence

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Tuesday said it deployed additional peacekeepers and launched urgent patrols, following fresh outbreaks of intercommunal violence in Western Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states.

This came after armed Murle youth from Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) on April 26, attacked Kapoeta East County of Eastern Equatoria State, resulting in deaths of civilians, abduction of women and children, and mass displacement of vulnerable communities.

 “Efforts are underway to verify the number of casualties, but preliminary reports indicate a significant number of people were killed, many women and children were abducted, and hundreds of cattle stolen,” said a statement issued by UNMISS in Juba.

It noted that another bout of communal violence in Tambura town of Western Equatoria state, has also displaced more than 13,000 people who are currently being hosted at a displacement camp outside a temporary base operated by UNMISS.

It added that another 4000 people have arrived at another displacement camp in Tambura town, following renewed violence.

The Avungura-led militia reportedly backed by the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), and the Balanda militia with alleged support from the opposition Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO) have been fighting since June 2021 in Tambura.

“Tensions between communities from different ethnic backgrounds are high following a series of incidents, including the killing of civilians, disappearance of a priest who is a member of the Tambura peace committee, and the torching of homes,” it disclosed.

Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, said that the peacekeeping mission is doing it’s utmost  to protect civilians caught up in intercommunal violence, despite the ongoing fuel blockade imposed by the government on UN agencies in South Sudan.

“Despite the ongoing fuel blockade which is threatening UNMISS’ ability to carry out our work, we are doing our utmost to help protect civilians caught up in intercommunal conflict and prevent further violence,” Haysom said.

He urged the government to ensure that the UN can continue to work without impediment to help protect civilians, support the safe delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable communities, and progress the development of institutions, infrastructure, and critical services across the country.

UNMISS said in response to the incident in Eastern Equatoria, it sent a special flight to Marwa to support the engagement of the GPAA Chief Administrator with local leaders and the community.

The peacekeeping mission requested GPAA authorities to recover all those abducted and reunite them with their families as well as to impose rule of law to prevent further incidents.

“The mission is supporting this process and wider efforts to de-escalate tensions. On the Eastern Equatorian side, UNMISS facilitated a visit to the site of the attack in Kauto payam by the state governor and other officials to assess the situation, verify casualties, and help restore calm,” it said. 

UNMISS also noted that it dispatched an additional 76 military peacekeepers to reinforce the Tambura temporary base, protect displaced families, and boost patrols in the surrounding area.

It added that it is also engaging with political actors and community leaders at the local and national levels to reduce tension and restore calm in Tambura town. 

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