December 29, 2013 (JUBA) – The United Nations mission in South Sudan on Sunday expressed concerns over reports that armed youth were advancing towards Bor, the Jonglei state capital allegedly in preparation for possible attacks.
- Hilde Johnson who head the UN mission in South Sudan addressing the press in Western Equatoria state April 17, 2012 (ST)
“These youths have been reportedly moving across the state for some time now, with a possible intention of attacking other communities,” Hilde Johnson, the head of the UN mission said in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune.
The world body, she disclosed, had been tracking reports on the movements of these armed groups, but said their size and location could not be independently confirmed.
“The Mission has started conducting an aerial reconnaissance flight over Jonglei today to get a clearer idea of the numbers of armed youths and the direction in which they are headed”, Johnson noted.
She, however, said the involvement of the armed youths in the ongoing violence would not only worsen the already volatile and unpredictable security situation, but further put civilian lives at risk.
“South Sudan does not need another escalation of the crisis involving armed youth, pitching communities against communities. This can end in a vicious cycle of violence,” she emphasised.
The South Sudanese army (SPLA) spokesperson, Philip Aguer, said Saturday that rebel forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar are planning an attack on Bor.
“We have information that forces loyal to Riek Machar are believed to be preparing a fresh offensive on Bor. We don’t know the number, but it is estimated 25,000 youths from the Lou Nuer [tribe] have been mobilised to participate in the attack”, Aguer said.
Mutineers from the army took control of Bor a few days after conflict broke out between members of the presidential guard on 15 December in the capital, Juba, with the army later retaking control of Bor on 24 December.
A spokesperson for the dissident forces on Saturday said their troops briefly withdrew from Bor town for "tactical" reasons, admitting that government forces were in control.
"It is only [a matter] time for our forces to reclaim the town to prevent targeted lynching of individuals on suspensions of their loyalties", partly reads a statement the dissident group extended to Sudan Tribune.
The UN says that 120,000 people have been displaced and over 1,000 people killed since the fighting spread from Juba to Jonglei, as well as into the country’s oil-producing states of Unity and Upper Nile.
CALLS FOR DIALOGUE
Johnson said she was in contact with a number of political and community leaders to ensure the armed youth are convinced to immediately halt their advance.
"To avoid further bloodshed, these youths should return to their towns, villages and cattle camps to avert a further escalation of the crisis in South Sudan", she stressed.
"UNMISS reiterates its call for dialogue between representatives of the government and former Vice President Machar to achieve a peaceful resolution to the current crisis," added the head of the UN mission in the country.