At least 18 people were reportedly killed in clashes between government and rebel forces in the Upper Nile region on Saturday, December 16. The fighting broke out when rebels raided an army base in Latjoor state.
Additionally, media sourced reported that four French aid workers were kidnapped by rebels on Sunday, December 17, near the city of Raga. Further details were not immediately available.
Cases of kidnappings have been on the rise in South Sudan since March 2017, particularly against oil and humanitarian workers. In March, two Indian engineers were abducted, as well as eight local employees of an American NGO and four employees in the oil sector. All were released a few days later.
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 has given 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 Machar and the SPLA-IO on the other. The conflict has continued despite international support for state-building and peace-keeping - including the 12,000-strong United Nations 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 border with the Central African Republic, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If travel is necessary, ensure that proper security protocols are in place.