South Sudan: amid ongoing tensions, UN confirms situation back to normal at protection site

The Protection of Civilians (POC) site near Bentiu, in Unity State, South Sudan. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The Protection of Civilians (POC) site near Bentiu, in Unity State, South Sudan. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

South Sudan, 2 October 2014 – The United Nations confirmed today that an incident involving troops from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and internally displaced persons seeking refuge at a UN camp in South Sudan has “returned to normal.”

According to information provided by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), around a dozen armed soldiers belonging to the SPLA advanced yesterday on the perimeter of the Bentiu camp in Unity state where over 47,000 people uprooted by the recent violence in the country are said to be sheltering.

“The soldiers were asked not to enter the camp and did not get inside, but their presence resulted in panic among those sheltering at the site,” UN Spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters in New York.

“No weapons were fired and the situation returned to normal several hours later,” he added.

Mr. Dujarric noted that UNMISS reminded all parties of the “inviolability of UN premises” and said the mission had reaffirmed its “resolve to defend its protection of civilian sites and personnel.”

South Sudan has experienced several bouts of violence over the past few months, including an incident in which the UN base in Bentiu came under fire resulting in the wounding of one child. Meanwhile, a prior attack caused hundreds of people to seek shelter at the nearest airport. Approximately 340 civilians took shelter with UNMISS troops, and then were escorted to safety.

Political in-fighting between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013 and subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. The crisis has uprooted some 1.5 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.