A flurry of intercommunal violence in a disputed area of South Sudan has killed several dozen people, according to the UN’s emergency response agency OCHA and a local official.
As of March 6, OCHA stated that violence in the oil-rich Abyei region near the Sudanese border had killed 36 people, injured an unknown number, and displaced 50,000 people.
“In the Abyei Administrative Area (AAA), intercommunal hostilities have risen in recent weeks, purportedly fueled by long-standing territory conflicts, inter-tribal tensions, and revenge seeking,” the agency said in a statement.
The combat had been ongoing since February 10 but had worsened in early March, according to the report, which added that humanitarian operations in the impacted areas had been interrupted and aid workers had been transferred to safety.
Although there have long been difficulties between the Ngok Dinka clan and Misseriya herders who pass the area looking for grazing, Abyei has been contested since South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011.
Ajak Deng, spokesman for the Abyei Administrative Area, said Misseriya herders and Sudan Armed Forces soldiers armed with heavy weapons carried out two deadly attacks over the weekend.
He said six people were killed on Saturday and another 27 on Sunday, and that the situation was still severe and that people were living in fear.
The US embassies in Juba and Khartoum released a joint statement expressing their “deep worry” over the rising violence in the region.
“We demand that all parties stop retaliating and return to negotiation,” they said.
Since South Sudan’s independence, Abyei has been under UN protection, and the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) deployed there has expressed its concern over the bloodshed.
“This has resulted in the loss of life and is creating tremendous humanitarian suffering among the people, as well as reversing achievements made toward peaceful coexistence in Abyei,” UNISFA said in a statement on Tuesday.