February 19, 2016 (JUBA) – Lawmakers in the South Sudan’s national parliament representing Shilluk tribe have accused the United Nations peacekeeping mission of the country of “leaving helpless civilians” to the mercy of attackers on Wednesday and Thursday in Malakal town, capital of the oil rich Upper Nile state.
At least 18 civilians died, according to reports by the medical charity, MSF (Medicines Sans Fortier) but the legislators put the death toll at more than 20 and seventy others injured.
Reading a prepared statement to reporters in parliament on Friday, Onyoti Adigo Nyikwac, the leader of minority in parliament said government backed militia group from Dinka Padang carried out the attacks on civilians sheltering in the protection of civilians (POC) sites managed by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“However, to our dismay, the civilians were left helpless by the UNMISS protection unit who [are] reported to have run away leaving the civilians being killed and wounded inside the UNMISS protection centres and their tents burnt to ashes,” said Adigo.
UNMISS forces are widely being criticized by the people in South Sudan as caring only for their well-being and benefits instead of applying their Chapter Seven mandate to protect the vulnerable displaced civilians including those under their protection in the camps. There have been many incidents in which civilians within the premises of the UNMISS POCs have been killed by elements of the government forces, such as in Bor and in Juba.
UNMISS said on Thursday that the fighting erupted between Dinka Padang and Shilluk youths, using machetes and small arms. The peacekeepers did not specify what triggered the clashes. The six Members of Parliament (MPs) on Democratic Change (DC) party tickets, the main opposition in the national parliament, said the cause of the clashes are unknown.
“There has been tension recently between the Dinka and Shilluk civilians inside the protection sites in Malakal but we don’t know what exactly led to this fighting,” said Andrew Okony Ayomo, DC lawmaker representing Malakal South and Panyikango county when asked at the news briefing in Juba on Friday.
The MPs called for “inclusive investigation” to establish the cause of the fighting.
“We urge the national government and UNMISS to quickly intervene and form an inclusive investigation team to go to Malakal for fact-finding,” said Adigo, adding that the team has to include officials from the government as well as opposition.
Dinka youth on Thursday morning, the second day of the violence, entered the camp with guns allegedly given to them by elements in the government and began shooting at members of Shilluk and Nuer civilians inside the UNMISS camp.
The MPs described the clashes at POC manned by UNMISS as attack on the peace and demand explanation from the government and UN authorities how guns infiltrated the civilians camp.