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South Sudan: To Achieve Lasting Peace, Localized Violence Must End, Says Bachelet

GENEVA (20 March 2020) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today expressed serious concerns about the escalation in intercommunal violence in central and eastern South Sudan in the past month, urging State authorities to curb the bloodshed and bring those responsible to justice.

Hundreds have been killed, women and children subjected to sexual violence and many homes torched, forcing thousands to take refuge in makeshift camps since the rise in attacks from mid-February.

The increased number and range of weapons used by rival clans, along with the apparent failure of local and national authorities, including the security forces, to respond, have contributed to the spike in violence.

Evidence also suggests that fighting between the Dinka Bor, Lou Nuer and Murle communities in Jonglei, which began in mid-February, may have been instigated by political and traditional leaders who have allegedly mobilized armed youths and exploited pre-existing communal tensions over access to natural resources.

In Jonglei on 19 February dozens of civilians were killed and wounded, and over 200 women and children are believed to have been abducted and subjected to sexual violence. Many homes were burned to the ground, leading roughly 8,000 civilians - mostly women and children - to seek protection in makeshift shelters near the UNMISS base in Pibor. “These acts are deplorable, and those responsible must be brought to justice,” said Bachelet.

In other areas of the country, tensions linked to the movement of cattle and access to natural resources, particularly water and grazing land, risk escalating in cycles of retaliatory violence, without appropriate intervention by State authorities. This was most recently evidenced by clashes in Lakes on 14 March, when at least 30 individuals were reportedly killed, and many others wounded, during fighting between Dinka sub-clans.

“The formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity has raised the hopes of the South Sudanese people for a lasting peace,” Bachelet said. “However, for any durable peace to take hold in the country, intercommunal violence must be addressed, and the perpetrators investigated and prosecuted. It is also vital that peace-building between individual communities is locked in to this process.”

She stressed that survivors of sexual violence arising from this violence must also be provided with appropriate medical and psychosocial support, and that every effort must be made to reunify abducted children with their families.

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