March 26, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudanese rebels have condemned Saturday’s killing of six aid workers in a remote location of the war-torn country, calling for immediate investigations into the incident.
- Oxfam aid workers in Mingkaman, South Sudan, oversee the distribution of food to displaced people in August 2014. (Photo Pablo Tosco/Oxfam)
The attack on the workers, an official said, constitutes a “war crime”.
“Humanitarian workers have always been of great help to the suffering population of South Sudan in PoCs [Protection of Civilians] sites, refugee camps, remotes areas and internally displaced camps. We respect their hard work and sacrifices in helping most vulnerable communities,” said deputy rebel spokesperson, Paul Gabriel Lam.
He added, “It’s unfortunate that this support is being negatively understood by some negative forces.”
The staffs from a national non-governmental organisation were reportedly ambushed in their vehicle in a government-controlled area on the Juba-Pibor road Saturday morning and their bodies were found on the road by others members of the convoy who were some way behind.
Lam blamed the attack on pro-government forces, saying it occurred in an under the control of the South Sudanese army (SPLA).
“We are aware that the area where this barbaric incident took place is under the control of Juba regime and its militias. The SPLA -IO calls for an independent investigation into this act of terrorism and cowardice towards the innocent hard working aid workers in the country,” he stressed in an interview with Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
The killing of aid workers hampers the provision of assistance to the population in a country where famine was recently declared, with another 5 million on the brink of starvation.
South Sudan’s conflict, the outcome of a rivalry between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar has led to the death of thousands and displacement of millions.
Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for South Sudan, David Shearer urged the government to investigate and apprehend the aid workers’ killers.
“The United Nations condemns this appalling and pointless loss of life,” said Shearer.
“This cold-blooded killing is utterly reprehensible, not least, because these aid workers were dedicated to alleviating the ongoing suffering of the people of South Sudan,” he added.
The latest incident reportedly brings to 79 the total number of aid workers killed in South Sudan since December 2013.
This, he said, is “an indication that the country is one of the most dangerous places in the world in which to be a humanitarian worker”.
In recent months, there has been a sharp rise in attacks on aid workers and their premises, mirroring a rapid deterioration in security and the country’s economic situation.