UN echoes calls for end of fighting in South Sudan

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The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has called on South Sudan political leaders to commit to achieving peace by ending the fighting in the country.

“Our first appeal to everybody is to find a solution to achieving peace,” John Ging, UNOCHA’s Director for Operations, said in a meeting with Yei River state government officials over the weekend. “It’s much easier to make conflict than to make peace…You just need to pull the trigger of the gun.”

South Sudan slipped into a civil war following political violence by forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, also former first vice president, Dr. Riek Machar, in mid-December 2013 in the capital Juba.

The rival parties signed peace treaties, and rebel leader Machar returned to Juba last year. But another bout of violence occurred between these rival forces in July, forcing Machar into exile. President Kiir replaced him with General Taban Deng Gai. Both sides blame each other for the attack that triggered the outbreak of the violence in July.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in its recent report that the population of South Sudan refugees has passed the one million mark. The conflict has also displaced millions of citizens internally.

Ging called on South Sudanese political leaders and its citizens “to be wise, patient, and courageous to lead the process to stop violence”. He cautioned that continued fighting would result in more deaths and displacement of people.

“In the meantime, people are losing their lives, people are being injured, people are suffering,” he said. Ging urged locals to volunteer their time and support aid agencies in their efforts to give assistance to people in need.

“Now people need assistance where they didn’t need it before,” he said about Yei, which has started receiving humanitarian aid. Yei used to be agriculturally productive, feeding other parts of the country, but insecurity has forced farmers out of their farms.

Acting Governor of Yei River State, Stephen Lado Onesimo, admitted that rising insecurity has affected the state capital.

“We as a government are not able to move out of Yei, other than two to three miles out of it,” he told UN officials.

Lado assured aid agencies that the state government will provide a humanitarian corridor to aid agencies to be able to reach areas that need assistance.

Jackson Abugo Gama, the State Political Affairs Advisor to the Governor, urged the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to move to Yei, saying this would help to deter acts of revenge killings, facilitate humanitarian work and offer protection to civilians facing attacks.

“We cannot deny the fact that whenever there is conflict civilians become the victims,” he said.

“We are advocating for the presence of a body like UNMISS to play at least a neutral role to facilitate humanitarian organizations so that interventions go beyond the boundaries of the town.”

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