(Juba) At least 52 civilians and two peacekeepers were killed in several ethnically motivated attacks on Saturday and Sunday in the Abyei region, a disputed oil-rich border zone between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN deplored on Monday. who called for calm.
Clashes are regular in Abyei, whose status has not been resolved since South Sudan’s independence in 2011 and which is placed under UN protection.
“Currently, according to local authorities, 52 civilians have lost their lives, while 64 others are believed to be seriously injured,” lamented the United Nations Interim Force (FISNUA) in a statement, saying it was “concerned by the continuation of intercommunity clashes.” .
Two peacekeepers, a Ghanaian and a Pakistani, were also killed, according to the UN force, which “strongly condemned these attacks against civilians and peacekeepers, recalling that violence against peacekeepers can constitute a crime of war under international law.
The UN “reiterated its call for a rapid investigation so that the perpetrators (of these attacks) are held accountable for their actions”.
According to the Abyei Administrative Authority (AAA), “armed young people” from the Twic tribe – belonging to the Dinka ethnic group, the largest in the country – came from the neighboring South Sudanese state of Warrap and the rebels carried out several attacks on Saturday, notably against the Nyinkuac market in Abyei, the main town in the region, as well as in the areas of Majbong and Khadian.
At least one of these attacks targeted Ngok, another branch of the Dinka ethnic group living in Abyei, according to AAA.
The Ghanaian peacekeeper was killed on Saturday in an attack on a Fisnua base in Agok, about 40 km south of Abyei, carried out “by an armed group”, the UN said.
The other, Pakistani, was killed on Sunday by “heavy fire” on vehicles transporting injured civilians to a hospital, the same source added on Monday.
Fisnua currently has 3,250 soldiers and 640 police officers responsible for maintaining peace.
In a statement released Monday, the United States, United Kingdom and Norway – the “Troika” that sponsored South Sudan’s independence in 2011 – said they were “deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in recent months between communities living in and around Abyei.
A conflict between the Twic and Ngok tribes began in 2022 over land claims in an area on the border of Abyei Territory and Warrap State.
In November, at least 32 people were killed in clashes between the two groups.
Earlier in January, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir called for a ceasefire.
The region is also regularly bereaved by tensions between the Ngok and the Misseriya herders, who cross the region in search of pasture. Clashes notably left several dozen dead in March 2022.
UN officials also expressed at the end of November their concern to see the Abyei area even more destabilized by the ongoing conflict since April in Sudan between the regular army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the Rapid Support Forces (FSR, paramilitary) of General Mohamed Hamdane Daglo.
The UN envoy for the Horn of Africa Hanna Tetteh was particularly concerned about the progression of fighting towards the south and the border between the two countries.
Noting the “proximity” of certain Misseriya groups with the FSR and “the recruitment campaigns of the warring parties”, she expressed concern about the impacts in this territory, in particular on “the already fragile coexistence between the Misseriya and the Ngok Dinka “.