Numbers in South Sudan Protection of Civilians camps increase

January 28, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Peter Louis

The Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in the South Sudanese town Bentiu has been fluctuating in term of numbers due to the scarcity of food, the difficulty to move around and the spike of fighting.

In the last six months the figures went from 88 thousand to one of the largest numbers currently of 122,293. It is very hard to find a single explanation, but clearly it’s about the fighting, the access to go back home, the lack of services and food scarcity.

On the first weekly briefing by the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UMNISS) in Juba, Ariane Quentier, spokesperson said that the Secretary-General expressed his concern over the parties’ deadlock regarding the issue of the establishment of 28 states, and their failure to meet the 22 January deadline to establish the Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan. He stressed that the formation of the Transitional Government is an essential step in implementing the peace (agreement) and laying the foundation for peace and stability in South Sudan.

The Secretary-General called on the parties to overcome their differences. He also encouraged the IGAD and African Union member states to seize the opportunity of the forthcoming African Union summit to address the political impasse that is impeding the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity.

The Secretary-General reaffirmed that the United Nations will continue to do all it can to support the people of South Sudan who continue to be subjected to unimaginable suffering and human rights abuses, as they have been since the beginning of the conflict over two years ago.

On the Protection of Civilians sites we believe that numbers have grown drastically in Bentiu due to food scarcity in the area.

On human rights, Ariane mentioned that UNMISS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report entitled ‘The State of Human Rights in the Protracted Conflict in South Sudan‘. The report was made public last week and is meant to be an update, or a compilation of the state of human rights in the country as the peace process is getting underway. The Mission shared the report with the Government, and their comments have been made public as well.

The report documented a number of cases including 280 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, widespread human rights violations and that all parties had committed abuses.

Documented violations and abuses include hundreds of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, forced recruitment and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

I quote “very few places in areas of conflict have been safe, (as) the parties have intentionally attacked traditional safe havens, such as places of worship, hospitals and, from time to time, United Nations bases,” something the Mission has repeatedly condemned.

There is also a sharp increase in child recruitment, with at least 13,000 to 15,000 child soldiers, recruited mainly, but not solely, by opposition forces.

Commenting on the report, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS Ellen Margrethe Loej said, “Accountability must be a fundamental element of the ongoing peace process. It is time to end the cycle of impunity that has allowed these violations to occur and embrace a brighter future of sustainable peace for all South Sudanese.”

On the implementation of the peace process, UNMISS continues supporting the implementation of the peace process by assisting the work of the Joint Evaluation Mechanism Commission (JMEC) as requested.

Last week the Mission facilitated consultations within the SPLA in Opposition by providing transport and flying a delegation of 38 from Juba to Pagak, and their return on Friday 22 January. As you may recall, the delegation was to consult on issues related to the peace agreement including the expansion plan to 28 states.

Ali Hassan, Civil Affairs Division Director said that there are three areas where they mainly focus, “Intercommoned conflicts generated by communities over resources and these are mainly in Warrap, in Lakes as well as other areas.”

“Intercommoned conflicts related to the huge number of Internally Displaces Persons (IDPs) that are present in three of the PoC sites, in particular in Malakal and Bentiu. The  conflict has brought communities that were fighting each other in a very small space (the PoC).”

“Intercommoned conflicts generated by the migration of huge numbers of livestock from areas such as Warrap, Lakes and Jonglei into relatively peaceful areas in the Equatorias. These cattle move from Western Equatoria towards Eastern and Central Equatoria. The conflict you have seen in the past few months in Western Equatoria is caused by the huge number of cattle that has moved into the area and taken a lot of land, while local communities have exhausted their traditional way to solve these issues and hence mobilized themselves to are fight back.”

“Intercommoned fighting mainly over resources. Resources such as water, pasture, issues related to the absence of the rule of law, issues related to the absence of police and the judiciary in Warrap and Lakes in particular have become so endemic that in mid- 2015 the number of people that have been killed in Lakes in attacks and revenge attacks has surpassed the number of people that have died in the active conflict between the two main parties.”

“The President went there in April 2015 and UNMISS was represented by myself  – we had a reconciliation conference over three days but the conflict started again after two months.”

“This issue is still ongoing as we speak; two weeks ago 30 people were killed within one week, and while we cannot identify the attackers due to the nature of these killings (mainly revenge killings), so the Lakes area is also an area of conflict.”


The situation is a little better in Warrap but there is still some ongoing conflict due to the absence of security, the absence of the implementation of the peace agreement. Communities have been brought together and have agreed to end the violence by signing peace agreements, but these peace agreements are not implemented. There is no enforcement from the local authorities so revenge attacks remain frequent.

The PoC sites in the Upper Nile state reunite three fighting communities in a small space in Malakal, while there is a continuous cycle of conflict brought on by various groups. UNMISS has tried to reduce and contain these conflicts thanks to our military, police and with the support of various International NGOs and UN agencies. We have been successful in establishing local committees in the PoC site; they meet regularly to discuss these issues and give us early warning on groups that are mobilizing to attack.

In the Bentiu PoC site there are also major communities related to the conflict that are agitated. There is also local conflict mitigation established to help reduce these conflicts.

Our UNMISS teams in both of these areas have helped breach the gap between the local governments and the IDPs community leaders in the past 2-3 months. The goal is to have the IDPs go back to Bentiu town and to Malakal town to resettle back home.

Conflict related to migration outside South Sudan. Let’s take the seasonal migration with huge number of cattle from Eastern Darfur to the region of Northern Bahr el Ghazal for a period four or five months as an example.

That migration has been so successful and well organized in the past two years that there were very minimal incidents.

Local South Sudanese officials and Arabs from Eastern Darfur have been meeting with the support of UNMISS to find ways to manage potential local conflicts related to the cattle migration, cattle raiding and revenge killing.

Agreements have been signed by both parties and are fully supported by local governments. Both communities benefit from these agreements by sharing and exchanging commercially (livestock, grains, and goods).








Peter Louis

Peter Louis works as a freelance Videographer and Journalist in the Republic of South Sudan. He previously worked for Ebony TV, South Sudan Radio and South Sudan TV, Wau.


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