Charity firms leave South Sudan state over fresh violence

By: AGGREY MUTAMBO

Two humanitarian organisations have closed shop because of renewed violence in South Sudan’s Unity State.

Doctors without Borders (MSF) on Tuesday withdrew its staff from Leer in Unity State after its premises was looted. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had left a day earlier.

In a statement, MSF South Sudan branch said it was suspending all its activities in the volatile area because of the safety of its employees, who were robbed twice at gunpoint last week.

Emergency Manager Tara Newell said the humanitarian situation would worsen as aid workers flee for their lives.

“Following these unacceptable attacks, there is no more access to life-saving medical care in Leer,” the statement read.

The charity had medical centres for malaria and malnutrition in Leer as well as in Mayendit.

ICRC announced its departure, saying it will no longer operate in the area until security improves.

“Dozens of well-organised armed men entered the compound at the weekend and stole equipment, medical supplies and money. Two ICRC vehicles were also stolen. Staff, including 10 Red Cross workers were threatened,” ICRC said in a statement on Monday.

ELECTIONS

Red Cross head in South Sudan Jürg Eglin said the attacks had made it difficult to continue serving in the area.

“These attacks are unacceptable. They hamper our efforts to respond to people in need. We are in contact with all relevant civilian and military authorities from both sides of the conflict to try to find out exactly what happened and why,” said Mr Eglin.

The violence pits government forces allied to President Salva Kiir against rebels associated with Dr Riek Machar. The two sides have fought since December 2013, resulting in at least 50,000 deaths. More than two million people have been displaced, according to the UN.

The two sides signed a peace deal last month that provides for a transitional government in three months. That deal brokered by regional bloc, IGAD, offered power-sharing between the warring sides after which elections will be held in 30 months.

But last week, violence erupted in Unity State as rebels opposed a unilateral decision by President Kiir to increase the number of states from 10 to 28.