On Monday, April 30, anti-government forces released ten South Sudanese aid workers who had been kidnapped near Yei (formerly Central Equatoria state) on April 25. According to local sources, the aid workers were released in good health to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials and flown to Juba. It is unclear if a ransom was paid to secure their release.
The ten South Sudanese aid workers, including three UN staff, were abducted by anti-government forces on Wednesday, April 25, when their convoy was ambushed while traveling from Yei to Tore. Cases of kidnappings have been on the rise in the country since March 2017, with oil and humanitarian workers particularly targeted.
South Sudan has been wracked by years of political, interethnic, and intercommunal violence - exacerbated by border and oil revenue disputes with Sudan. Following the 2011 signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that gave the country its independence from Sudan, the predominantly north-south conflict gave way to a pattern of internal violence. Since December 2013, the country has experienced an intermittent civil war waged between the government of President Salva Kiir and the SPLA on one side, and former Vice President Riek Machar and the SPLA-IO on the other. The conflict has continued despite international support for state-building and peacekeeping - including the 12,000-strong UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), deployed since 2011. The number of South Sudanese citizens displaced by the conflict currently stands at some 3.5 million.
Many Western governments advise against nonessential travel to South Sudan. Certain regions should be particularly avoided, including the states of Unity and Upper Nile, the north of Warrap state, parts of Eastern and Central Equatoria states, and areas along the borders with the Central African Republic, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If travel is necessary, ensure that proper security protocols are in place.