The United Nations (UN) has condemned the attack on its convoy travelling to deliver food that would have fed 95,000 people in hard-to-reach areas in South Sudan.
The UN mission in the country and the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that an inter-agency convoy of 59 trucks, carrying WFP food and nutrition assistance on Monday, February 28, was attacked by an armed group near Gadiang, located in Jonglei state, some 160 km from the state capital, Bor.
One of the UN MISS peacekeepers who was protecting the convoy was shot at but “is now in stable condition,” the UN Mission and WFP said in a joint statement on Wednesday, March 2.
Attacks on aid convoys derail aid organisations from delivering life-saving assistance to people in need during the limited window of opportunity available to reach them, the UN agencies said.
Meshack Malo, the UN interim Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, maintained that continued attacks on humanitarians and attempted looting of vital relief are a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
“At a time of major funding constraints, the loss of aid due to theft, looting or destruction, means that every bag of food, nutrition or other humanitarian supplies looted is stolen directly from the South Sudanese families most in need,” he said.
The latest attack comes barely a week after an armed group raided two food aid warehouses of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Mirmir and Padeah, Unity State, Western Upper Nile region.
Also, staff of Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who were travelling along the Yei – Maridi road in two branded vehicles to support the provision of community-based healthcare for malaria, pneumonia, and acute watery diarrhoea in the Minyori community, were attacked on Tuesday, March 1.
According to the UN humanitarian affairs office (O.C.H.A), attacks targeting humanitarian convoys and assets have been rising in South Sudan, surpassing 590 in 2021.
Since gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, the country has been reeling from climate-related crises and clashes between government forces and a loose coalition of army defectors and ethnic militias, causing a dire humanitarian crisis.
HumAngle observes that aid workers are increasingly being targeted and their facilities damaged as they try to help those most at risk.
More than 8.3 million people in South Sudan are expected to require humanitarian assistance in the lean season of 2022, due to worsening food insecurity that will drive more than half of the country into acute conditions, according to the United Nations humanitarian agency.
The spike in attacks has forced humanitarian organisations to seek protection from U.N. MISS forces during aid deliveries, Malo said.
A joint report by the country’s U.N. Mission and the U.N. Human Rights Office has named members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) and the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) – which is led by Major General James Nando – and affiliated rebel groups, as responsible for the incessant attacks and other human right violations.
‘Hold perpetrators accountable’
“We call on all parties to the conflict to hold to account all individuals implicated in the horrific killings, rape, and abductions, among other grave human rights violations,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said.
According to Bachelet, those suspected of instigating, facilitating and aiding the violence have been identified, including high-ranking military officials and community and religious leaders.
“Allegations against these individuals must be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated; and perpetrators brought to justice and held accountable,” said Ms. Bachelet.
The UN human rights chief called on South Sudanese authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible.
Bachelet noted that sustainable peace in South Sudan is only possible if gross human rights violations committed during conflict are addressed through justice, truth, reconciliation, healing, compensation, and reparations.
“The perpetrators of such brutal violence against the men, women and children of South Sudan cannot be left to benefit from impunity. Accountability is critical to deterring further violations,” she said.
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