With hundreds killed in the last week as violence escalates in South Sudan, ACT Alliance has called for urgent action. ACT (Action by Churches Together) of which CWS is member asking the country’s government and the United Nations to step up protection efforts as civilians flee for their lives.
The Alliance said that the violence has displaced thousands of people, including 34,000 who have sought refuge in the bases of UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS), while others who may need to flee cannot reach the UN bases.
Following latest news reports of an attack on a UN base in Akobo yesterday, the Alliance said it fears bloodshed and further displacement will spread across the country in the coming days.
“Our extreme concern at the moment is the protection of civilians,” said ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna.” Displaced people cannot return to unsafe locations, and the UN reports that there are 14 locations in South Sudan with fighting, civil unrest or heightened tension. Churches too are offering refuge for immediate lifesaving, and we need to rapidly see a more proactive attitude by the government and the UN to protecting civilians. We call on all actors to give unconditional humanitarian access. The security situation needs to improve rapidly.”
Referring to the continuing needs of those displaced, Nduna said: With thousands now at UN bases ensuring the continued availability of food and medicine is now a big issue in all UN compounds. There are reports of water and food shortages in Juba and surrounding towns as there is no movement of supplies into the country.”
“With all of this, once the borders are open there will be a likely influx of refugees,” he continued. “We urge the government, UN and NGOs to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced civilians, and to ensure that water and food are available for the population.”
Nduna also joined the call this week from South Sudanese church leaders for reconciliation between political leaders. In addition, World Council of Churches General Secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has also urged South Sudan to pursue peace and justice by all means and in all times in a letter to President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
“Political solution needs be sought through mediation,” he said. “The government, opposition and international community needs to work to secure peace and rule of law, adhere to the international humanitarian law, and to end the human rights violations.”
ACT Alliance members in South Sudan and neighbouring countries are scaling up operations, and the alliance has issued an alert highlighting the severity of the in-country situation with the number of people displaced and its potential impact on neighbouring countries.
Eye witness accounts from ACT Alliance member World Lutheran Federation’s (LWF) offices in south Sudan have recounted sporadic gun fire since Sunday which has spread to rural areas out of the capital, and requiring people to remain hidden in their houses to avoid being caught up in the gun fire.
Cases have also been reported of soldiers starting to target civilians from rival ethnic groups, raising concerns that the bloodshed could spread beyond army factions in the capital to the population at large.
Eberhard Hitzler, Director for the Department of World Service at the LWF, which is a member of ACT Alliance, said: “I think we are seeing potentially the worst situation since Rwanda. Reports coming in from several locations about house-to-house killings and killings through road blocks, with the targets being either Dinka and Nuer, depending on location. Violence and conflict does not seem to be centrally politically controlled, and is therefore hard to manage. With the UN compounds also under attack and are no longer guarantees for safety in the country, and this must be urgently addressed by the government and the international community.”
20 December 2013