JONGLEI – Hundreds of people have been killed in a new burst of intercommunal violence in South Sudan, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday (Friday in Manila), with “many more” injured and thousands displaced.
Among those killed in Jonglei state were a local Red Cross volunteer and a nurse working with the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, the statement said, stressing that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic complicates efforts to respond to such violence and treat the victims.
“Covid-19 restrictions make it far more difficult to evacuate the wounded by air and provide surgical care for trauma injuries,” the ICRC said, adding that 23 people were evacuated by air this week.
Local authorities have expressed outrage at the killings over the weekend, the latest in intercommunal fighting that plagues a country trying to recover from five years of civil war.
Patrol of peacekeepers
The United Nations (UN) mission in South Sudan on Wednesday said a patrol of peacekeepers reached the communities in Pieri in northern Jonglei to investigate the violence between armed Murle youth and Lou Nuer fighters. It found many huts burned to the ground.
“These violent assaults on civilian communities as part of an ongoing cycle of revenge must stop. While politically motivated conflict has reduced in South Sudan, intercommunal fighting has increased,” UN special representative David Shearer said in a statement.
Cycle of violence
The UN said it had been trying to deter such cycles of violence including in February after a “Lou Nuer offensive on Murle communities that resulted in hundreds of deaths to avenge persistent Murle raids on Lou Nuer villages.” The virus restrictions, however, have stalled the peace efforts.
The pandemic also complicates South Sudan’s recovery from civil war in which nearly 400,000 people were killed. The former leader of the armed opposition, Riek Machar, who is now a vice president, announced this week he tested positive for the virus.
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