Community-based militias biggest threats to civilians: report

Community-based militias biggest threats to civilians: report
A cattle-herder from the Toposa tribe walks through the bush in Kapoeta, South Sudan, on May 24, 2017. Cattle raiding between groups plays out on the stage of the conflict.

A UNMISS Human Rights Brief released on Friday stated that acts of violence against civilians committed in July and September 2023 were perpetrated by community-based militias.

The mission recorded at least 215 instances of violence involving 641 civilians throughout this time, “primarily through killing, injury, kidnapping, and sexual violence tied to conflicts.”

According to the document seen by The City Review, 77 cases were casualties of local militias or civil defence organisations.

This represents a three per cent drop in violent occurrences and a 26 per cent drop in civilian injuries—from 871 to 641—when compared to the previous quarter.

“The number of civilians killed decreased by 19 per cent (from 395 to 321), and the number of people injured decreased by 18 per cent (from 281 to 231),” noted Nicholas Haysom, Secretary General’s Special Representative to South Sudan and the Head of UNMISS.

Under the records, there were fewer kidnappings—166 compared to 65—and fewer CRSV victims—29 compared to 24. Warrap accounted for 440 of the casualties in South Sudan, making it the most impacted state, followed by Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria.

UNMISS noted that even though the number of civilian deaths attributable to the conventional parties to the conflict has generally decreased since the R-ARCSS was signed in 2018, ongoing hostilities between the National Salvation Front and the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces continue to have a negative impact on the safety of civilians in some areas of Central Equatoria.

A surge in gender-based and sexual violence is among the major human rights issues brought up in the brief. Due to its membership in international human rights treaties, South Sudan is legally required to defend the rights of everyone residing on its soil.

 “Violence against civilians is unacceptable and undermines the notion of justice and the rule of law. It is critical that the Government of South Sudan, all signatory parties, as well as the national and community leaders prioritize safety, security, and the protection of civilians,” said Haysom.