Fighting with heavy and small arms fire resumed today in South Sudan’s Unity state where United Nations peacekeepers are protecting some 23,000 displaced civilians, a UN spokesperson confirmed.
“The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that there was fighting in various parts of the country over the weekend,” said Farhan Haq briefing journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.
In resource-rich Unity state’s capital, Bentiu, the Mission reported heavy fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition soldiers, including in the vicinity of a UN base.
“After the Mission engaged with both warring sides, forces left the area last evening,” he said, adding that UNMISS military enforced the perimeter security in the camp before fighting resumed today.
The conflict, which began in mid-December 2013, is believed to have left thousands dead and forced tens of thousands to seek refuge at UN bases around the country. It has also been marked by numerous grave human rights violations. Mid-April also saw an upsurge in the violence, with mass killings in Bentiu and Bor.
Most recently, a four-year-old girl seeking refuge at a UN base died from an injury caused by a stray bullet.
Near Bentiu, UNMISS also reported fighting in the northern city of Tor and close to Mayom Junction in Unity state.
Heavy clashes between the SPLA and opposition forces were also reported yesterday in Renk, at the northern tip of South Sudan, and Nassir, further southeast, in Upper Nile State using “tank and mortar fire, with some of the shells landing close to the UNMISS base there”, according to the spokesperson.
In the South Sudanese, capital, Juba, the Mission reported that peacekeepers fired tear gas to disperse a crowd after a skirmish broke out yesterday between Nuer internally displaced persons and some members of the Dinka community living outside the UN House protection site.
Meanwhile, five construction workers employed as UNICEF contractors to build a temporary learning space for displaced children in UN House were attacked by a group of stone-throwing displaced persons on Friday.
UN military and police peacekeepers were able to control the situation but at least two people were injured.
Back from a visit to South Sudan last week, Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reported a drastic deterioration in the human rights situation in South Sudan, marked by increasing ethnic violence and revenge killings, and urged the Security Council to act before the country plunges deeper into a crisis.
The Council, in December, agreed to increase the number of UNMISS peacekeepers from 7,700 to 13,200. However, the contributing countries have still not supplied some two thirds of the extra troops.