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ACT Alliance Alert: Conflict in South Sudan

Source: ACT Alliance - Switzerland - Fri, 20 Dec 2013 02:27 PM
Author: Elisabeth Gouel
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Alert

South Sudan

South Sudan Conflict

20th December 2013

1.    Brief description of the emergency and impact

Tension within the South Sudanese ruling party SPLM grew over several month since President Salva Kiir reorganized his entire cabinet. On the evening of 15 December, violence erupted in Juba amongst the military. The circumstances around the violence starting are still unclear.  Fighting in Juba has been most intense between the evening and morning (particularly from the evening of 15 December to the morning of 17 December). On 16 December the President ordered a curfew from 18.00 to 6.00. Since 18 December there has been relative calm within Juba though sporadic gunfire continues. The situation however, is getting increasingly tense in several of the States including Jonglei.

Thousands in Juba have sought refuge in UN compounds. According to OCHA, roughly 20,000 people are being sheltered in the two main UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compounds in Juba. According to media reports 400-500 people, mostly soldiers in Juba, are estimated as killed during the conflict. Other sources report house to house killings, taking place within Juba leading to the allegations of this being an ethnic conflict.

Fighting has been reported in Bor and Pibor town in Jonglei state. Media reports have stated that Bor, the capital of Jonglei, has been taken by rival troops (reportedly those loyal to Machar). OCHA has stated that several hundreds of civilians have sought refuge at the UNMISS compound in Pibor town as well. Also in Jonglei state, fighting in Akobo was reported yesterday when an armed group attacked the UNMISS compound there - two people were killed and one UN military personnel. Violence has also been reported in Unity State (Bentiu) and Lakes State (Rumbek) although the details are still unclear.

On 16 and 17 December the airport in Juba was closed for both domestic and international flights, including commercial airlines and UNHAS. Flights resumed on 18th December including the evacuation of international staff from Juba.

2.    Why is an ACT response needed?

Already the situation in South Sudan calls for a response internally as a result of the displaced persons and ongoing protection issues. There are indications that the situation will continue and possibly worsen. It is therefore very likely that there will be regional implications of refugees fleeing the country. ACT members in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia will need to respond to this possible influx of refugees.

3.    National and international response

Within South Sudan it is currently very difficult for any agencies to begin any humanitarian response as a result of the precarious security situation. Currently UN compounds are acting as a safe haven for the displaced persons, but they are struggling with the large numbers and running out of food and medicine. One UNMISS compound has also been attacked with potential death of those that were seeking refuge in the compound.

Various Governments and Church groups are attempting to encourage the President and Riek Machar to have talks toward ending the violence that is ongoing in different parts of the country. However, it is possible that both Machar and Kiir no longer have control over the army and their followers which will make the results of these talks all the more difficult.

Most international workers have and are still being evacuated from the country.

UNHCR in Kampala and Kakuma have begun discussions with agencies in working on refugees in these locations especially around contingency planning.

4.    ACT Alliance response

A skype call between the various ACT members was carried out this morning to initiate the way forward. The ACT members have agreed to work within their country forums to prepare plans on how they will respond which will feed into a preliminary appeal planned to be issued on 26 December.

Currently no response is taking place within South Sudan by the ACT members as the situation is too insecure. In Kakuma and Uganda LWF have begun to prepare for new arrivals and have contingency plans in place for this. ACT members in Ethiopia are planning to provide support to a possible influx of refugees in the Gambella region.

5.    Planned activities

Within South Sudan it is not yet clear what activities will be carried out and at this stage it is not safe for agencies to be responding. In the coming days the situation will be monitored and decisions will be made on what possibilities there are for ACT members to respond. This will most likely include WASH, NFI distribution, protection and psychosocial support.

In Kakuma and Uganda, activities will be centred around supporting any refugees that are coming from South Sudan through the usual refugee response. Contingency plans are already in place and activities are ongoing to prepare for the arrival of refugees. This includes preparing schools in Kakuma to allow for the housing of large numbers of refugees as well as prepositioning stock and having staff on standby.

6.    Constraints

Humanitarian access is one of the main problems within South Sudan where locations are too insecure and Government is not allowing the movement of agencies. Clear information of what is going on and on population movement is difficult to come by.  This makes it difficult to know the numbers that might be moving toward Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jean-Daniel Birmele, Director of Finance (jbi@actalliance.org)

 

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