Populations at Risk
Previously Studied Situations
Cross-border conflict, recurring inter-communal violence and the activities of armed groups in South Sudan leaves populations, particularly those in Jonglei state, at ongoing risk of mass atrocity crimes.
BACKGROUND:Violence in Jonglei state between the Lou Nuer, Dinka and Murle communities has previously followed a seasonal cycle, involving traditional cattle raids and competition for natural resources. However, due in part to the proliferation of small arms, populations are now subjected to violence of increasing scale, duration and intensity, including the deliberate targeting of women and children.
In addition, since August 2012 fighting between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and forces loyal to David Yau Yau, a rebel leader who is allegedly armed by the government of Sudan, has heightened the risk to civilians in Jonglei state. Yau Yau's forces have launched attacks against the military, killing over 100 soldiers from the SPLA and several UN peacekeepers during the past year.
Violence between rival groups from the Lou Nuer and Murle communities in remote Pibor county was reported between 10 and 11 July, threatening the already precarious security situation in Jonglei state. Armed groups of up to 4,000 Lou Nuer youth attacked Murle communities, resulting in an unknown number of casualties and the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians. The SPLA and aid agencies have been unable to provide details on the number of fatalities. There have been reports of retaliatory raids by the Murle.
According to the UN, as of 23 August six major population centres in Pibor county had been largely abandoned as a result of inter-communal clashes, SPLA abuses against civilians and fighting between the government and Yau Yau's armed group. Many Murle were reportedly reluctant to return home due to fear of SPLA reprisals. Responding to international condemnation of SPLA abuses, on 20 August President Salva Kiir ordered the arrest of James Otong, the general who was responsible for the SPLA's offensive against rebel groups operating in Jonglei.
Following a decrease in fighting between the SPLA and Yau Yau's forces, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has increased military patrols around Pibor and Gumuruk to protect civilians, ensure the safe return of displaced persons and provide access for humanitarian organizations.
ANALYSIS:The rapid escalation of inter-communal violence across Pibor county during July indicates that the root causes of conflict between the Murle and Lou Nuer have not been adequately addressed. The failure to prosecute perpetrators responsible for past attacks deepens the enmity between communities and perpetuates cycles of violence. Yau Yau's insurgency leaves civilians at ongoing risk due to fighting between his forces and the SPLA.
The government of South Sudan requires ongoing international assistance to ensure security throughout the country and uphold its Responsibility to Protect.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE:The UN Security Council (UNSC) renewed the mandate of UNMISS on 11 July. The resolution expressed "grave concern at the continuing human rights violations" in Jonglei state and called upon the government of South Sudan to "take greater responsibility for the protection of its civilians."
The UNSC issued a Press Statement on 23 August, expressing concern over the increased violence in Jonglei state and noting that the government of South Sudan has the primary responsibility to protect civilians.
On 23 September, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his deep concern about the security and humanitarian situation in Jonglei state. He called upon the government of South Sudan to ensure the protection of all civilians and take concrete action to address underlying grievances
NECESSARY ACTION:The government of South Sudan must rededicate itself to comprehensively resolving the country's various internal and external conflicts. Urgent security sector reform is essential to enhance the effectiveness and accountability of the SPLA.
The government must deploy adequate SPLA forces to protect against any future inter-communal violence in Pibor county. It is critical that the ethnic composition of troops deployed in Jonglei state does not compromise their ability to exercise their duties. The SPLA must also ensure the adequate protection of civilians while conducting operations against Yau Yau's insurgency.
The government must break the culture of impunity regarding inter-communal violence in Jonglei state.
The international community should assist UNMISS and the SPLA in upholding their protection responsibilities by providing adequate riverine and helicopter assets.
Last Updated: 15 October 2013