Rising Toll: South Sudan Grapples with Deadly Communal Violence, Over 150 Lives Lost in January 2024 Alone
In a stark revelation, the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) has reported that South Sudan has mourned the loss of more than 150 lives to armed communal violence within the initial 36 days of 2024. This distressing toll marks the highest recorded fatalities within a single month since the inception of the national unity government.
Edmund Yakani, the Executive Director of CEPO, expressed grave concern over the escalating violence, stating, “In the first 36 days of the year 2024, we have witnessed over 150 lives lost and more than 180 injuries due to armed communal violence, predominantly concentrated in the Bahr el Ghazal region.” Yakani highlighted the devastating impact on communities, including extensive property destruction and the burning of markets.
The surge in violence comes in the wake of President Salva Kiir’s directives in January, which included measures for disarmament, security force deployment, and a call for the cessation of hostilities. These directives were specifically aimed at restoring peace in conflict-prone areas such as Bahr el Ghazal, where tensions between the Twic and Ngok communities have been particularly volatile, as well as in parts of Warrap State and Western Bahr el Ghazal State.
Despite presidential orders, reports indicate that communal clashes persist in regions beyond Bahr el Ghazal. Intercommunal violence has been reported in the greater Kapoeta area of Eastern Equatoria State, notably between the Toposa and Buya communities, while conflicts in Jonglei and Central Equatoria states continue to escalate.
Of particular concern is the intensification of violence between Abyei and Twic communities, resulting in the loss of 37 lives and numerous injuries shortly after the presidential directives were issued.
Yakani emphasized the urgent need for decisive action to stem the tide of violence, warning of its detrimental impact on the upcoming general elections. “Citizens are losing trust and confidence in the prospect of peaceful elections in December 2024,” he asserted, underscoring the disillusionment caused by the prevailing climate of insecurity.
Amid growing suspicions that political actors may be fueling the violence for personal gain, Yakani urged government institutions to conduct thorough investigations into the root causes of communal conflicts. “There is an urgent need for comprehensive inquiries into the underlying factors driving these violent confrontations among our communities,” he urged, calling upon ministries and state authorities to prioritize the investigation process.
As South Sudan grapples with the tragic toll of communal violence, the imperative for concerted efforts to address the root causes and restore peace has never been more pressing.