440 civilians killed in Tombura, UN calls for accountability

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that at least 440 civilians have been killed during the conflict in Tombura County, Western Equatoria.

UNMISS describes the killing as a grave violation and abuse committed against civilians. UN Human Rights said the figures showed the killings were committed between June and September last year.

On May 19, 2021, fighting erupted between rival armed groups in the Tombura area. 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, alleges the members of the SPLA-IO  and SSPDF led by Major General James Nando and their affiliated militias for being responsible for the violations.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released a detailed report on Tuesday.

It stated that 64 civilians were subjected to conflict-related sexual violence, including a 13-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death. At least 440 civilians were killed, 18 injured, and 74 abducted during clashes between warring groups. According to the UN, the conflict also displaced 80,000 people who fled their homes in dire need of food assistance.

The report detailed that civilians’ properties were looted or destroyed, child conscription and attacks on personnel and facilities were rampant.

Ms. Bachelet says women and children abducted must immediately be released and reunited with their families, and survivors provided with reparations.

The UN High commissioner further calls on the political parties to hold individuals responsible for these violations and human rights abusers accountable.

“We call on all parties to the conflict to hold to account all individuals implicated in the killings, rape, and abductions, among other grave human rights violations,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

The UN stated that sustainable peace is the only possible means to address the gross violations of human rights during the conflict through justice, truth, reconciliation, healing, compensation, and reparations.

In response, the SPLA spokesperson in Opposition, Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, welcomed the report but refuted that his party did not command soldiers to fight in Tambura county.
He described the conflict as “communal violence,” and soldiers who might be involved will be investigated.

“If any soldier of the SPLA-IO is involved in crimes against humanity in Western Equatoria or Tumbura in particular, he/she will be held accountable,” he said.

SSPDF also mentioned in the report, said they are aware of the allegation leveled against their soldiers but promised to provide a comprehensive response soon.

Last year, UNMISS set up Temporary Operating Base with 21 peacekeepers to respond at short notice to protect and deter the violence.