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UN withdraws 30 aid workers from South Sudan, warns against premature elections

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Oxfam aid workers in Mingkaman, South Sudan, oversee the distribution of food to displaced people in August 2014. (Photo Pablo Tosco/Oxfam)

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said it has withdrawn 30 humanitarian aid workers from Aburoc area in Upper Nile region following the fighting there.

David Shearer, the head of UNMISS, said the fighting has put civilians at risk as government troop’s fight to dislodge rebels from Aburoc.

“We are still unclear about exactly what is happening on the ground in terms of whether the fighting is ongoing or likely to carry on,” said Shearer.

“What is important is for both parties to pull back, because there are a number of civilians there [Aburoc] that humanitarian organisations would have been supporting,” he added.

The senior UN official who visited the area said the fighting has displaced several women, children as well as elderly people.

“So, I would like the warring parties to pull back and allow those people to the safe sanctuary that they deserve and they need,” he said.

According to Shearer, about 10,000 people including women and children left Aburoc area located along the Nile River banks. In May, UNMISS forces were temporarily deployed there to help with delivery of humanitarian aid following fighting between warring factions.

Shearer also disclosed that South Sudan’s worsening humanitarian crisis and peace deal revival efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), would be discussed at the ongoing 72nd UN General Assembly in New York.

The meeting, he added, will also highlight the importance of ending impunity for attacks against civilians and humanitarian aid workers.

More than 80 aid workers, the UN said, have been killed in South Sudan ever since conflict broke out in the young nation in 2013.


UN warns South Sudan against holding ‘premature’ elections

File photo: SPLA-IO rebels walk during an assault on government soldiers in the town of Kaya, on the border with Uganda, August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

File photo: SPLA-IO rebels walk during an assault on government soldiers in the town of Kaya, on the border with Uganda, August 26, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

South Sudan’s plan to hold elections next year risks “deepening” an already devastating conflict, the UN Mission in the country warned, barely two weeks after the government  vowed, despite the ongoing civil war in the nation, to hold elections next year.

“I think if we had premature elections before all the procedures are put in place and before there was real peace, then that would be a problem,” David Shearer, the head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), told reports in Juba on Thursday.

The top UN official advised South Sudan to delay elections until the ongoing civil war ends. “In June, I spoke at the Heads of State meeting for IGAD and we said that it is important that elections are held where free and fair elections can take place for them to be credible elections and for them to be able to contribute to resolving the conflict here,” he said.

“I think it is important that we work through the peace process, that we have good conditions on the ground to enable an election to take place that can be seen as free and fair and people can have confidence in,” he added.

The United States last week imposed sanctions on two senior government members, a former military official accused of undermining peace, security and stability in the world’s youngest nation.


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