20 Dead In Clashes At U.N. Displacement Camp In South Sudan

Violent clashes erupted earlier this month at a U.N.-run displacement camp in South Sudan, resulting in 20 deaths and 50 injuries. According to state Information Minister Luke Saadala, tensions began to rise when women from various groups fought at a water source in the camp, which is located in Malakal, the capital of the East African country’s Upper Nile state. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (U.N.M.I.S.S.), which oversees the camp, reports that full-fledged fighting began when a man was stabbed to death on June 8th.

“People are too scared to return to their shelters in Malakal,” South Sudan’s new Chief of Mission, Peter Van der Auweraert, said. “They prefer to camp out next to the humanitarian hub despite deteriorating weather.” Luz Linares, head of Doctors Without Borders’ mission in the country, agreed, reporting that while the situation was “relatively calm this morning [June 9th], many women and children who fled the camp are yet to return in fear of escalation.”

The conflict in South Sudan is complex, stemming from years of political unrest, ethnic tensions, and ongoing fighting between government forces and rebel groups. The country has been plagued by violence since its independence in 2011. Over two million people were displaced and tens of thousands were killed in the nation’s civil war, which began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar of plotting a coup and dismissed him as vice president. This resulted in clashes between forces loyal to each side, quickly escalating into a full-blown conflict. It was a conflict fueled by political and ethnic tensions between different groups in the country, as well as competition for resources and power.

Kiir and Machar signed a peace deal in 2018 to end the nation’s five-year civil war, aiming to establish a power-sharing government and integrate rebel forces into the national army, in addition to calling for a ceasefire and the release of political prisoners, but deadly violence between ethnic groups and communities continues to plague South Sudan. The ongoing violence has had devastating consequences for the people of South Sudan, who continue to suffer from poverty, food insecurity, and other forms of hardship. As a result, many people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in U.N. protection sites, which have become overcrowded and under-resourced.

The clashes are a “stark reminder of the continuing conflict and violence that innocent civilians continue to face in South Sudan,” U.N. Special Representative for South Sudan David Shearer said.

The U.N. and other aid-minded organizations have long been working to protect civilians and provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict. Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (M.S.F.), has been operating in the country since 1979. Apart from the violence and displacement, inadequate access to healthcare has been one of the largest problems plaguing South Sudan, and M.S.F.’s work has been crucial in providing much-needed medical assistance to people in need. However, the complex nature of the conflict has troubled the organization’s work. M.S.F. staff have been attacked, and the organization has had to suspend its operations in certain areas due to security concerns. Despite these challenges, M.S.F. remains committed to providing medical assistance to the Sudanese people. Organizations like this are pivotal in addressing the humanitarian crisis and providing medical assistance to those in need.

The conflict at the Malakal displacement camp is a tragic reminder of the ongoing violence and instability in the region. The incident highlights the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict in South Sudan. The U.N. and other international organizations continue to call on all parties to engage in dialogue and work towards a sustainable peace agreement that will end the violence and provide long-term stability to the region.