Increasing attacks between communities in South Sudan risks pulling armed groups into the conflicts and could unravel a peace agreement, according to the United Nations mission in the East African nation.
The UN recorded 415 violent incidents in the first five months of the year, up from 236 attacks in the same period last year, it said in a emailed statement on Tuesday.
While political parties have respected the cease-fire, the “scope and intensity of the current outbreak of inter-communal violence could threaten this fragile peace,” said David Shearer, the head of the mission. “Hundreds of people have been killed or injured, women and children abducted, cattle stolen, homes burnt to the ground and thousands forced to flee to escape the violence.”
A peace pact ended years of devastating civil war and helped form a power-sharing government in February led by President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader, Riek Machar, as vice president. The fighting among ethnic groups in the oil-rich nation comes at a time when leaders are squabbling over provincial control and as the government struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
“Much of the lawlessness and seizing of resources by armed groups stems from an absence of authority because political parties have failed to agree on the appointment of governors and local authorities in the 10 states,” Shearer said.
Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth couldn’t immediately be contacted by phone for comment.
South Sudan was mired since late 2013 in a conflict that’s claimed almost 400,000 lives, forced four million people to leave their homes and caused an economic crisis. The fighting devastated oil production in a region that produced low-sulfur crude, prized among environmentally-conscious power-plant operators in Japan and elsewhere.