The UN announced on Tuesday, April 10, that two local aid workers had been killed in separate attacks over the weekend of April 7-8 in Unity state. According to the statement, unidentified gunmen shot at an aid vehicle near the town of Bentiu, killing one local aid worker from the Hope Restoration NGO. Another local aid worker employed by the UNIDO NGO was killed near the town of Leer.
Furthermore, the UN said that anti-government forces had abducted seven local workers from the SSUHA aid organization on Sunday, March 25, while they were delivering health supplies in Central Equatoria state’s Morobo county. The UN has demanded their unconditional release. However, the rebels responsible for the incident have retorted that the NGO employees were not abducted but arrested, as they did not have the appropriate clearance to work in the area.
These are the first cases of aid workers killed in South Sudan in 2018 so far; at least 98 aid workers have been killed since the ongoing conflict broke out in 2013. 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 the 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.
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