A new report by the UN Mission in South Sudan reveals that community-based militias were responsible for 78 percent of killings and injuries caused to civilians in the country in 2020.
Their activities include abductions and conflict-related sexual violence during attacks in some areas in South Sudan.
The Annual Brief on Violence Affecting Civilians released by the Human Rights Division of UNMISS documented the killing of 2,421 civilians in 2020 alone.
This, it said, is more than double the previous year when over 1,500 people were injured.
It disclosed that many of the victims of violence were killed or injured during a wave of attacks by armed community-based militias across Jonglei and the Pibor Administrative Area, as well as in Warrap and Lakes.
The vast majority of violence, it added, was geographically concentrated in 72 payams of the 540 payams in the country.
The report states some groups were supported by local and national elites driven by political and economic interests.
Published on Wednesday, the report raises particular concern about a sharp spike in abductions by more than 300 percent.
Many of the victims were children stolen from their families during militia-led raids, in addition to men being abducted by conventional parties for forced military recruitment and labor.
The Head of UNMISS, David Shearer said: “The surge in subnational violence is deeply concerning and has had a devastating impact on the lives of communities already suffering huge economic deprivation due to flooding in areas like Jonglei.”
He, however, indicated that there was a 21 percent reduction in cases of conflict-related sexual violence documented in 2020.
The annual brief presents an overview of trends in violence affecting civilians from January to December 2020 by assessing four major forms of individual harm experienced throughout the country.
This includes killing, injury, abduction and conflict-related sexual violence.
The UN Mission said it has deployed peacekeepers to where conflict traditionally erupts, ahead of the dry season, to help deter further attacks.
It also stated that it is working with political and traditional leaders at the national and local level to promote reconciliation and facilitate peace talks as well as negotiating the release of abducted women and children.
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