South Sudan: The Humanitarian Cost of South Sudan's Continuing Violence

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Relief agencies have reported that aid stocks may have been looted in the fighting that saw the town re-captured by government forces and which is now under threat of a counter-attack.

According to OCHA, "there are serious protection concerns in all areas of South Sudan where armed violence has occurred or is ongoing. Reports continue to come in of extrajudicial killings and harassment in several locations, including credible reports of civilians being targeted and attacked based on [their] ethnic identity."

One UN worker told IRIN that limited access is affecting not only the level of assistance that can be provided, but also the level of "reliable information on the scale of the crisis".

What is being done to address the violence?

The international community has engaged gears to try and end the violence in the world's youngest nation.

President Kiir has said he is ready for a ceasefire and negotiations, but Machar - who is in hiding - has insisted on the release of arrested allies before he will commit to any truce.

Regional leaders under the auspices of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), met in Nairobi, Kenya, on 27 December in a bid to end the hostilities. IGAD gave the two protagonists until 31 December to commit to peace talks, and appointed a mediation team. The consequences of missing the deadline were not spelled out.

But on 30 December Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni warned he would send in troops to intervene on the side of the government if the rebels ignored calls for a ceasefire.

Uganda has denied claims its troops are already in the country propping up the South Sudanese military. But the conflict is potentially ripe for regional escalation, given northern neigbour Sudan's concerns over oil revenues and the longstanding rivalry with Kampala.

The UN Security Council has authorized the near doubling of peacekeepers in the country - from 7,000 to 12,500. Already, the first two police units have arrived, while UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous said he hoped "all peacekeeping reinforcements will be on the ground within one to three weeks".

The UN is backing IGAD's mediation efforts. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with Kiir this week by phone, welcoming his declared commitment to dialogue and encouraging him to "consider the early release of political prisoners". According to a UN news report, he also stressed the need "to hold accountable those responsible for attacks on civilians."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. ]

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