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UNMISS peacekeepers receive reinforcements as they deal with rising tensions in Greater Pibor

Renewed conflict in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area has led to thousands being displaced and increased need for humanitarian assistance in this already-beleaguered part of South Sudan. Photo by Gideon Sackitey/UNMISS.

Renewed conflict between community-based militias in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area has led to thousands being displaced and increased need for humanitarian assistance in this already-beleaguered part of South Sudan.

While UNMISS peacekeepers from India quickly deployed to the mission’s temporary operating base in Likuangole to help deter violence, the situation remains tense.

“Just yesterday, we sent reinforcements in the form of necessary rations and non-food items to our peacekeepers who have been patrolling in and around the Greater Pibor area nearly 24 hours a day,” said Lieutenant-General Shailesh Tinaikar, UNMISS Force Commander.

“However, the rains have made roads to places such as Gumuruk and Verteth, where outbreaks of fighting led our humanitarian partners to suspend life-saving aid operations, near-impassable,” he continued.

“We’re currently looking at the possibility of using UNMISS aircraft to reach civilians who desperately need our help in these locations. Till that time, our quick reaction forces remain ready to deploy.”

Between January and August last year, intercommunal violence intensified in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor area with thousands of fighters from the Dinka, Nuer and Murle militias conducting coordinated attacks which displaced entire villages. Hundreds of people were killed and wounded; women were raped, and children abducted, according to a human rights report released by UNMISS and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Nicholas Haysom, the top UN envoy in South Sudan, has expressed grave concern about a possible repetition of these dire events. “The rising violence in Greater Pibor and likelihood of revenge attacks is alarming,” he said.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of this conflict which is creating further displacement and threatening the distribution of food aid.”

“Our peacekeepers are doing everything they can to protect displaced families as well as humanitarian personnel and supplies,” said Mr. Haysom. “However, the protection of citizens, wherever they are, from militia violence is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government and its security officials.”

A Government-appointed High-Level Committee, headed by Vice President Dr. James Wani Igga, has previously held consultations with feuding groups in response to the 2020 violence. SRSG Haysom called on the government to take further action to stem the current outbreak of violence and address its root causes.

For his part, Force Commander Tinaikar travelled to Bor and Akobo last week to get a firsthand sense of the security situation and inspect to the operational readiness of UNMISS troops.

“During my visit I received updates on recent peace talks between Murle and Nuer representatives in Akobo. Such peace and reconciliation dialogues are vital to ensure that situations like what is happening in Greater Pibor can be mitigated in time,” he said.

“At the moment, peacekeepers—military, police and civilian—are engaging with local leaders, politicians and communities to build confidence, deter further conflict and promote peace and reconciliation,” he added.

“Our troops are constantly monitoring the situation and patrolling hotspots to make sure we respond swiftly to any emergency protection needs in and around the area.”

The multi-donor peacebuilding trust fund is also being used to help reduce tensions over access to resources by improving basic services within the affected communities.