April 9, 2017 (JUBA) - The U.N mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said Wednesday that it had twice been prevented from accessing the Eastern Equatoria state town of Pajok.
- South Sudanese SPLA soldiers are pictured in Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state on August 20, 2015 (Photo AFP/Samir Bol)
"The mission has received reports of fighting between SPLA [government] troops and the opposition there and is trying to follow-up on reports of civilians killed in the area," it said in a statement.
UNMISS urged the government to immediately allow it access "so it can fully implement its mandate, including to protect civilians and report on human rights violations".
Michael Makuei, South Sudan’s information minister confirmed its forces attacked Pajok.
"As you know Pajok has been in the hands of the rebels so what happened was government forces went there and fighting ensued and so the civilian population that has been staying with the rebels had to run away," said Makuei.
"I don’t know the figure [of those who might have been killed or injured] but in any fighting there must be casualties,” he added.
More than 6,000 people have fled from southern South Sudan into the northern Ugandan district of Lamwo, recounting the slaughter of civilians by armed forces, according to the UN refugee agency.
A statement from the UNHCR said on Friday more residents of Pajok town were hiding in the bush trying to find their way to safety in Uganda.
"People fleeing the recent incident claimed that the town came under an indiscriminate attack by the South Sudan armed forces," the statement said.
The crisis comes after fighting between government forces and rebels erupted on Monday in Pajok in a previously peaceful part of the country that has seen a surge in conflict in recent months.
According to UNHCR, Uganda currently hosts over 832,000 refugees from South Sudan, including more than 270,000 in the Bidibidi refugee camp, which in eight months has gone from an empty patch of land to the world’s biggest refugee camp.