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December 21, 2012 (JUBA, South Sudan) – Expat staff members of the humanitarian aid organization World Concern have left the town of Wau, in South Sudan’s Western Bahr El Ghazal state, following recent outbreaks of violence between tribes in the area.
According to Reuters, at least 13 people died in clashes that broke out on Wednesday in the northern town of Wau. Up to 300 armed Dinka youth set fire to several buildings in Wau, according to the UN. Up to 5,000 civilians, mostly women and children, are seeking protection from the violence at the UN base in Wau. The government is imposing a 24-hour curfew in the town.
The home of a local World Concern staff member who works as a driver for the agency was burned on Wednesday, said Nick Archer, senior director of security and disaster response for World Concern. Several Kenyan staff members took shelter in the UN compound before leaving the area by vehicle under the escort of local Dinka staff. The Kenyan staff were then flown to Nairobi. Staff members who are Dinka have stayed in Wau, while those from other tribes have left for safer locations.
“The situation in Wau has been deteriorating for several days, with incidents of violence increasing in frequency and severity. Our latest information suggests that many people have fled the town for safer areas,” said Archer. “This is a tragic development for the people of Wau who are struggling to build a future from the ruins of decades of conflict, and we are concerned that the situation will get out of control, leading to further unnecessary loss of life and destruction of property.”
World Concern offices in Wau and Kuajok, South Sudan, were to be closed today through next week for the Christmas holiday. They will remain closed as we monitor the situation.