Victims of ethnic violence in Jonglei state in South Sudan wait in line at the World Food Program distribution center in Pibor to receive emergency food rations, last week., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
UN: South Sudan violence fueled by new weapons
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Traditional cattle raids between rival ethnic groups in South Sudan's vast Jonglei state have escalated to violence on a much larger scale with highly organized groups using extremely advanced weapons, the U.N. envoy to the world's newest nation said Thursday.
Hilde Johnson told reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors that the current violence is much more serious than in 2009 and 2011.
She said the violence can only be resolved by a comprehensive peace agreement that addresses traditional rivalries among militias, grievances over resources including cattle and water, economic disparities, and the flood of weapons left over from the north-south civil war and other conflicts.
When all these factors come together and attacks and revenge attacks get out of hand "then you have a situation where the violence is very significant," Johnson said.
"Added to that, we've seen a much more organized and much more serious violence this time around," she said. "We've seen armed groups with uniforms in formation, with extremely advanced weaponry and very well organized. So it's not cattle raiding any more."
Johnson said the U.N. didn't know where the advanced weapons originated.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the current council president, told reporters that Johnson reported significant progress in South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in July, in building its government institutions.
"But she also highlighted the fragility from the security situation, particularly in Jonglei," he said.
Lyall Grant said Johnson also cited tensions between South Sudan and Sudan and the decision by the South's government to stop production of oil — which has to be sent through Sudan's pipelines — over accusations of theft.
Both Johnson and Grant welcomed this week's agreement by Sudan and South Sudan in Addas Ababa, Ethiopia, to move ahead on border demarcation and on citizenship issues for nationals living on the other side of the border.
They also welcomed the announcement that the presidents of the two countries will meet in Juba in early April.