Thousands of internally displaced people gather at Emmanuel Church Compound in Yei, South Sudan. Photo: UNHCR/Rocco Nuri
Extremely concerned by the continuing deterioration of the security situation in the South Sudanese town of Yei, where an estimated 100,000 people are trapped, the United Nations mission in the African country today called on warring factions to immediately end all hostilities.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has received “deeply disturbing reports of horrific violence perpetrated against innocent and vulnerable civilians, including women and infants,” said the statement issued by the Mission's principle public information officer.
“UNMISS is also concerned at the humanitarian crisis unfolding, with a population unable to move freely, tend to their farms, or feed themselves, due to various restrictions on their movement, and the inability of humanitarian partners to freely access the area and provide much needed assistance,” the statement noted.
According to UN agencies, it has been estimated that some 100,000 South Sudanese are trapped in Yei, which is situated in Central Equatoria state, about 150 kilometres south-west of Juba, the capital, and close to the country's borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Until recently, Yei had been largely spared from the violence and attacks that have plagued the country since December 2013.
The Mission is alarmed that deadly attacks on civilians and looting of private property on 11 and 13 September, and the displacement of several thousand others from nearby Lainya County since mid-July, has affected over 100,000 South Sudanese in Yei, despite their civilian non-combatant status, the statement said.
“UNMISS calls on all parties to refrain from further violence, ensure that commanders control their forces and protect civilians and their property and to cease all hostilities,” the statement said, adding that “we also call on the authorities to grant immediate and unfettered access to UNMISS and humanitarian actors […] and further reiterate that there can be no military solution to the situation in South Sudan.”
UNMISS, was set up in 2011 after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. It played a major role in trying to protect civilians when war broke out in 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those of then Vice-President Riek Machar.
Deteriorating security in South Sudan has forced more than 200,000 people to flee the country since a fresh fighting broke out around Juba, the capital, on 8 July 2016, bringing the number of South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries to over 1 million. Within the national border, more than 1.61 million people are internally displaced and another 261,000 are refugees from Sudan, DRC, Ethiopia, and Central African Republic.
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