Community-based militias responsible for violence in South Sudan – UNMISS Says

By Deng Machol

The Governor of Boma stae, David Yau Yau, was instrumental in rescuing three children who were abducted in 2017 from the Equatoria region. Yau Yau, with UNMISS’ support, personally accompanied the children to Juba. Photo credit UNMISS

Juba –  A new report by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has revealed that community-based militias were responsible for 78 percent of killings and injuries caused to civilians in the East African’s youngest nation.

Their activities include abductions and conflict-related sexual violence during attacks in some areas in South Sudan in 2020.

The Annual Brief on Violence Affecting Civilians released by the Human Rights Division of UNMISS documented the killing of 2,421 civilians in 2020 alone.

The Annual Brief on Violence Affecting Civilians, released by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, documented the killing of 2,421 civilians in 2020.

This, the report said, is more than double the previous year when just over 1,500 people were injured, up from 866.

The UNMISS also disclosed that many of the victims of violence were killed or injured during a wave of attacks by armed community-based militias across Jonglei and the Pibor Administrative Area, as well as in Warrap and Lakes.

While the figures represent a significant increase in violence compared to 2019, the clashes were concentrated in just 13 percent of the country’s 540 payams (administrative areas) and largely involved community-based militias rather than conventional parties to the conflict. 

The report states some groups were supported by local and national elites driven by political and economic interests in the restive country.

The report, published on Wednesday raises particular concern about a sharp spike in abductions by more than 300 percent.

Many of the victims were children stolen from their families during militia-led raids.

Men were also abducted by conventional parties for forced military recruitment and labour.

The report notes a 21 percent reduction in cases of conflict-related sexual violence documented in 2020.

The report, however said the level of violence also remains significantly lower than the period prior to the signing of the 2018 peace deal.

“The surge in subnational violence is deeply concerning and has had a devastating impact on the lives of communities already suffering huge economic deprivation due to flooding in areas like Jonglei,” said the Head of UNMISS, David Shearer.

Late last year, UNMISS deployed peacekeepers to the affected areas so they were in place ahead of the dry season when conflict traditionally erupts due to tensions between communities over scarce resources. 

The UN Mission said it has deployed peacekeepers to where conflict traditionally erupts, ahead of the dry season, to help deter further attacks since late last year.

“We are also working closely with political and traditional leaders at the national and local level to promote reconciliation and facilitate peace talks as well as negotiating the release of abducted women and children,” said Shearer. “A peacebuilding trust fund is also being used to improve basic services to reduce the risk of fighting flaring up over access to resources.”

The communal – based violence was being blighted the political stability since the country’s independence to date.

The political steps and efforts to establish a peaceful and stable South Sudan, remain nightmare despite the 2018 peace deal.

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