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UN voices concern over fresh round of killings in South Sudan

3 February 2012 – The United Nations human rights office today voiced concern over a cattle raid in a northern state of South Sudan earlier this week, which led to 78 deaths and numerous injuries among civilians, most of whom were women and children.

“We call on all relevant authorities to ensure that urgent measures are taken to help secure the economic and social rights of those affected by the attack, which was reportedly carried out by men from the neighbouring Unity State,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at a press briefing in Geneva.

More than 70,000 cattle were looted during the attack, according to OHCHR.

“This is extremely worrying because an exclusively pastoralist economy means that around 40,000 people have now been left without a livelihood,” Mr. Colville said, stressing that those displaced by the attack, mostly members of the Luac Jang tribe, are now facing shortages of water, food, shelter and medicine.

Mr. Colville noted that details on the incident are still unclear as the attack occurred in a remote area of Warrap state, and said that OHCHR and the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) will continue investigations on the matter.

Reports so far have stated that 78 people died, nine are missing and 72 were wounded in the attack. Most of the killing appears to have been inflicted with machetes, and it is believed to have involved people crossing over from neighbouring Unity state.

The attack appears to be unrelated to recent incidents in Jonglei state, where tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in the past two months due to deadly clashes between the Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic communities.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, who visited Jonglei this week to assess the humanitarian situation, voiced her concern over the impact that the violence has had in the state.

In an interview with UN Radio, Ms. Amos stressed that the humanitarian and development challenges are still significant, and expressed her concern about providing aid before the start of the rainy season to ensure access to the population.

In addition, she emphasized that the main objective is not to provide aid, but to help the South Sudanese become self-sufficient.

“Ultimately people don’t want to be dependent on international food aid from international agencies. They should only be a stop gap. But this is difficult given the conditions in Jonglei.”

During her visit to Jonglei, Ms. Amos met with some of the 140,000 people affected by the recent communal violence. “I met a lot of people who continue to be fearful about returning to their homes, saw many villages that have been burned to the ground. It’s extraordinarily difficult to know when people will feel secure enough to return,” she said.

Ms. Amos noted that UNMISS will continue to work with authorities at a national and state level to encourage reconciliation discussions between the warring parties so the violence can end.

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