Friday, February 10, 2017 9:06 am
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has voiced concerns about an escalation in the fighting between government and opposition forces in the west bank of the River Nile in the country’s north.
The Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said the situation had reached “worrying proportions” according to a statement issued by the Office of Spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping operation.
“What began with an exchange of fire between SPLA (the Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and Aguelek opposition forces, has expanded geographically,” Shearer said in the statement.
The UN envoy noted that military resupplies have since been observed arriving in the area.
He said military operations on the west bank of the Nile River were taking place in an area where people, predominantly from the Shilluk ethnic group live, forcing people out of their homes.
“The town of Wau Shilluk is now reported to be deserted while humanitarian workers have been evacuated and aid is not being provided,” he added.
Shearer said he returned to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, on Thursday from a two-day field visit to Bentiu and Leer, two towns which have been among the most affected by the country’s conflict.
In Bentiu, he said’, he met state government officials, as well as internally displaced people who are living in the largest protection of civilians site in the country.
In Leer, he visited the mission’s temporary operating base to assess UNMISS’ success in mounting robust patrols which push the mission’s presence deep into the field.
He also said he held discussions with local officials and also took the opportunity to travel to an opposition-controlled area to meet with pro-Machar representatives so he could hear all shades of opinion on how to facilitate humanitarian assistance and advance the peace process.
“Both the local authorities and the opposition praised the UN for its efforts to facilitate communications between them.
“Mr Shearer heard that they both recognise that an inclusive national dialogue will assist the peace process,” the statement added.
South Sudan has faced ongoing challenges since a political face-off between President Salva Kiir and his then former Vice-President Riek Machar erupted into full blown conflict between forces loyal to each in December 2013.
The crisis has produced one of the world’s worst displacement situations with immense suffering for civilians.
Despite the August 2015 peace agreement that formally ended the war, conflict and instability have also spread to previously unaffected areas. (NAN)
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