UN condemns violence against civilians, aid workers in South Sudan

(Xinhua) 09:33, April 26, 2022

JUBA, April 25 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Monday condemned the rampant sexual violence, killings, burning alive of civilians, and attacks on aid workers in South Sudan's Leer County.

In separate statements issued in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, the UN humanitarian agency and UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) called upon all armed actors to respect international humanitarian law and immediately cease targeting civilians, women, humanitarian personnel and their assets.

"I condemn in strongest terms the ongoing violence in Leer County, Unity State, and the conflict tensions across South Sudan. The surge in fighting in April has resulted in widespread devastation, with numerous people reported killed, wounded, women abducted and raped; homes burned, and properties looted," Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan Sara Beysolow Nyanti said.

Nyanti said these atrocities happened at the time when humanitarians are responding to mitigate suffering as a result of rains and standing water from the 2021 floods as well as preparedness activities to mitigate the impact of the oncoming rains and projected flooding.

She said the violence claimed the lives of innocent civilians and mourned the loss of a staff member of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who was killed in Leer earlier this month while trying to flee a violent attack on his community.

Nyanti said the continuation of violence hampers the delivery of humanitarian services to the most vulnerable, especially women, children, elderly and disabled people, and deteriorates further their already dire situation.

"It increases the number of those in dire need of humanitarian assistance, and we do not have the funds to reach those already in need," she said.

Some 6.8 million of the most vulnerable people in South Sudan will need urgent life-saving assistance and protection in 2022, according to the UN.

Between Feb. 17 and April 7, some 72 civilians were killed, at least 11 injured, and 64 cases of sexual violence recorded, according to UNMISS human rights teams who have conducted 10 verification missions.

Nicholas Haysom, the special representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan, said two survivors said that they were repeatedly raped and gang-raped after they came out of hiding to find food for their children.

Haysom said another woman who had recently given birth recounted that she was raped and severely beaten for three days.

"I am strongly appalled by these horrific attacks on civilians in Leer. We must all do everything we can to ensure that victims and survivors get the justice they deserve and receive the care and support they need," he said.

According to initial reports, some 40,000 people have fled the violence in Leer, with thousands reportedly crossing the Nile to Fangak in Jonglei State.

The UNMISS said thousands of cattle were raided, and markets, homes, and humanitarian facilities and warehouses looted and burnt down. The wet season has already begun, along with the risk of floods, creating a dangerous situation for thousands of internally displaced families.

"The Mission urges national and local authorities to take immediate measures to reduce tensions and prevent further escalations and retaliatory attacks. Impunity on violations of human rights must end and perpetrators held accountable for these horrible crimes," said Haysom.

UNMISS is also engaging with leadership at the capital and state levels to mitigate violence while civil affairs teams are meeting with communities to conduct focus group discussions in conflict-affected areas. 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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