The severe tensions that surfaced in Pibor, South Sudan, at the end of December 2015 have erupted into violent attacks and heavy fighting in February 2016. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) work in the area has been suspended for the time being, and the local staff has been evacuated to the capital Juba.
At least 2,000 people are seeking refuge at the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Many more have fled to the bush, too, after several civilians were killed, their homes and possessions looted and burned. The local hospital was also destroyed, and the county market was set on fire.
The violence stems from political tensions between the newly appointed local leadership, and an armed group loyal to the former leader of the area, and their respective supporters.
“For the time being, Finn Church Aid staff is working out of the capital Juba. Our office in Pibor and the accommodation spaces of our staff were looted and destroyed completely, but thankfully our staff is fine”, says Pio Ding, FCA’s Country Manager for South Sudan.
“Unfortunately, the events in Pibor reflect the broader situation in the country, and the future of the area is closely intertwined with the broader conflict between the government and the opposition. Despite the peace agreement being signed in August 2015, civilians continue to be killed and suffer from displacement, and live in insecure and inhumane conditions. For example, in Malakal, in the Upper Nile, the UN PoC site was attacked and at least 18 people who were seeking safety were killed and over 40 people injured”, says Ding.
South Sudan was classified as the most fragile state in the world in 2015. Increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced people are fleeing their homes, and the country faces drastically increasing humanitarian needs as the rainy season approaches.
In the Pibor area, FCA implements peace building activities through facilitated dialogues, reconciliation and vocational training. FCA also supports the education of internally displaced children through an Education-in-Emergencies programme funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
In South Sudan, FCA supports the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) in their nation-wide peace building efforts. The churches have played an important role in reconciliation and contributed, for their part, in a peace agreement being signed after over one and a half years of civil war in August 2015.
FCA will resume its work as soon as the situation calms down and the fighting ends.
Pio Ding, Country Manager, South Sudan, Finn Church Aid, pio.ding (at) kua.fi
Marie Makweri, Peacebuilding Officer, South Sudan, Finn Church Aid, marie.makweri (at) kua.fi
Request for interviews through Communications Officer Minna Elo tel. +358 50 3309747, minna.elo(at) kua.fi