The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is deeply concerned about reported mobilization of armed Nuer youth in the Greater Jonglei area that could renew deadly fighting in the restive region.
“Such mobilizations have the potential to trigger violent attacks that can gravely impact the civilian population,” said a statement by UNMISS issued in Juba on Wednesday.
The warning comes in the wake of recent fighting between White Army militia from Jonglei State and indigenous Shiluk community in Upper Nile. The conflict displaced nearly 40,000 civilians since fighting mid-November.
UNMISS said upsurge of conflict will undermine recent peace gains achieved through a rapprochement between the leaders of Jonglei state and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA).
“The mission appreciates proactive engagements by the government of South Sudan with involved youth leaders to de-escalate hostilities and restore calm,” it said.
It noted that the transitional unity government must take responsibility for protecting civilians.
UNMISS disclosed it will continue to deploy all available resources and make every effort to ensure the safety and security of affected populations.
“Similar incidents in the past have resulted in the loss of lives, abduction of women and children, displacement of thousands of civilians, and destruction of property,” it said.
The peacekeeping mission called on leaders of the Lou Nuer and Murle communities to exert positive and constructive influences on their youth groups, encouraging them to embrace dialogue and refrain from using violence as a means of resolving grievances.
“Additionally, the mission urges community leaders to ensure the release of previously abducted women and children, and the return of looted cattle to their rightful owners, to foster reconciliation and respect for fundamental human rights,” it said.
UNMISS promised to support government authorities and respective communities in reducing tensions through dialogue and other peaceful means.
Over the past years, clashes between communities in Jonglei State and GPAA have been characterized by child abduction, cattle raiding and revenge killings.