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UNMISS has strongly condemned the violations committed by armed youth from Koch and Mayendit counties, located in neighouring Unity state, which have forced thousands to flee to safety. 

Between 17 February and 7 April, some 72 civilians were killed, at least 11 injured, and 64 cases of sexual violence recorded, according to UNMISS human rights teams, which have conducted 10 verification missions to the area.  

Ensure justice for victims 

Two survivors reported that they were repeatedly raped and gang-raped after they came out of hiding to find food for their children. Another woman who had recently given birth recounted that she was raped and severely beaten for three days. 

“I am strongly appalled by these horrific attacks on civilians in Leer. We must all do everything we can to ensure that victims and survivors get the justice they deserve and receive the care and support they need,” said Nicholas Haysom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS. 

Displacement and looting 

Initial reports from Leer county, located in Upper Nile state, indicate that some 40,000 people have fled the violence, with thousands reportedly crossing the Nile to Fangak, a community in Jonglei state. 

Thousands of cattle were raided during the attacks, while homes, humanitarian facilities and warehouses were looted and burned to the ground. 

Meanwhile, the wet season has already begun, along with risks of floods, making conditions dangerous for thousands of displaced families.  UNMISS is also investigating violence in Mayendit and Koch counties, including Mirmir Payam. 

The Mission has deployed additional peacekeepers to conduct regular patrols, including night patrols in Leer town, to avert further loss of life. 

Authorities urged to act 

While UN ‘blue helmets’ are providing protection to displaced people, and the humanitarians serving them, UNMISS emphasized that civilian protection “is first and foremost the responsibility of the Government.”  

The Mission has welcomed initial steps taken by the authorities, including the formation of an investigation committee and the deployment of troops to restore security. 

UNMISS is engaging with leadership at the capital and state level to mitigate violence. Civil affairs teams are also meeting with communities to conduct focus group discussions in conflict-affected areas. 

“The Mission urges national and local authorities to take immediate measures to reduce tensions and prevent further escalations and retaliatory attacks,” said Mr. Haysom.  

“Impunity on violations of human rights must end and perpetrators held accountable for these horrible crimes.” 

Women plead for peace 

Relatedly, women in South Sudan have been pleading for peace, the top UN humanitarian official in the country said on Monday, following a visit to Unity and Upper Nile states from 22-23 April. 

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Sara Beysolow Nyanti led a high-level delegation to the state capitals, Bentiu and Malakal, respectively, to assess needs on the ground and to meet with people affected by ongoing violence and natural disasters. 

Displaced women spoke of how insecurity, rape, and lack of livelihood opportunities and education are impacting their lives, stating “this is not the life we chose”. 

Violence and tensions 

Ms. Nyanti also condemned the ongoing violence in Leer county, and conflict tensions across the country, in the strongest terms. 

The surge in fighting this month has resulted in widespread devastation, she added, with numerous people reported killed and wounded, women abducted and raped, homes burned, and properties looted. 

“These atrocities happened at the time when humanitarians are responding to mitigate suffering as a result of rains and standing water from the 2021 floods as well as preparedness activities to mitigate the impact of the oncoming rains and projected flooding,” she said. 

'Tragic loss of life'

Innocent civilians have been killed in the violence, and the Humanitarian Coordinator mourned the loss of a staff member with the international non-governmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) killed in Leer earlier this month while trying to flee an attack on his community. 

“This tragic loss of life of those who commit to save other people’s lives is unacceptable,” she said. 

Ms. Nyanti called on “armed actors” to respect international humanitarian law and to immediately cease targeting civilians, women and humanitarian personnel and their assets. 

“Continuation of violence hampers the delivery of humanitarian services to the most vulnerable, especially women, children, elderly and disabled people, and deteriorates further their already dire situation. It increases the number of those in dire need of humanitarian assistance, and we do not have the funds to reach those already in need,” she said.  

This year, some 6.8 million of the most vulnerable people in South Sudan will need urgent life-saving assistance and protection. A $1.7 billion humanitarian response plan for the country is currently only around eight per cent funded. - United Nations


Kenya has announced that it will host a meeting between rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the government in Kinshasa.

The announcement was made on Thursday after a meeting of leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC that met in Nairobi to discuss violence by armed groups in the DRC.

The meeting takes place after the DRC joined the Community of East African States at the end of March.

According to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during Thursday's meeting the leaders sought to establish a regional force to neutralise armed groups in the region.

Recent fighting in eastern DRC has pitted government forces against rebels from the M23 movement, a group that emerged from the Congolese Tutsi rebellion.

Two weeks ago the group announced that it was withdrawing from villages under its control saying it wanted "peaceful settlement of the crisis".

Another rebel group active in eastern DRC, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is accused of carrying out attacks that have cost thousands of lives as well as planting bombs in Uganda's capital, Kampala. - Africanews


The World Food Program warns an estimated 20 million people in drought-affected parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia could face catastrophic levels of hunger if the region is hit with a fourth consecutive year of drought.

The rains have failed to come to the Horn of Africa nearly a month into the current rainy season, which lasts through May. The past three years of drought have taken a heavy toll. The World Food Program reports crop failure in Ethiopia has plunged 7.2 million people into acute hunger and killed more than a million livestock.

The situation is no better in Kenya, where escalating drought has left more than three million people short of food, including half a million who are facing emergency levels of hunger. In Somalia, the WFP says six million people, or 40 percent of the population, are food insecure, with more than 80,000 on the brink of famine.

Speaking from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the WFP regional director for East Africa, Michael Dunford, says the number of hungry people could spiral from an estimated 14 million to 20 million, if the rains fail to come yet again.

"The situation is bad. It continues to deteriorate. We are desperate for these rains to succeed," he said. "But even if they do … these populations are exhausted. The water sources are exhausted. The livestock are dying. The crops are failing. And we are heading to a very severe situation unless we are able to pull it back from the precipice."

Dunford says there is anecdotal evidence that children already are dying from malnutrition-related causes because they are not able to get the nutritional feeding that could save their lives.

He says the WFP is severely underfunded. It has received 13 percent of a required $370 million. Since that appeal was launched in January, he says the number of people needing help has increased, as have the costs. The WFP now requires $473 million to scale up its operations over the next six months.

"Funding gap means that WFP is having to prioritize in such a way that the prevention of malnutrition, we are now going to have to focus primarily on the treatment," Dunford said. "And at some point, even these programs will not have sufficient funding if the current trends continue. And we will have to focus exclusively on humanitarian feeding programs."

Dunford says the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine is compounding the problems in the Horn of Africa, with food and fuel prices soaring to unprecedented highs. - Lisa Schlein, Voice of America

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