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Source: Radio Tamazuj

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stated yesterday that villages in Guit and Koch counties have been burned and women there raped, according to information that it collected from sources in Unity State.

Ellen Margrethe Løj, head of the UN Mission, stated, “There is no legitimate reason to burn civilian homes, or target civilian girls, boys, women or men through violence, including sexual violence.”

Reports of the village burnings, rapes and other violence come after the launch of a government offensive near the Unity State capital Bentiu late last month.

UNMISS has a peacekeeping base in Bentiu but no peacekeepers in Guit or Koch counties. However, hundreds of people from those areas have fled recently to the base in Bentiu, where they are able to provide information to the peacekeepers about what happened in their villages.

In its press statement yesterday, the UN peacekeeping mission said it has received “continuing and consistent reports coming from Guit and Koch counties” of towns and villages being burned, killings, abductions of men and boys, rape and abduction of girls and women, and forced displacement.

Although the UN Mission does not claim to have verified all of the reports about what happened in Guit and Koch, it stated, “Information collected by UNMISS gives credence to some of these allegations. Although it is unclear who committed such atrocities, it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that all civilians are protected, as well as for all parties to ensure appropriate command and control of their combatants to prevent the targeting of civilians.”

The peacekeeping mission also disclosed that it faced limited access to the affected areas, citing “increasingly aggressive behaviour toward United Nations staff from soldiers at checkpoints.”

“This would seem to reflect a lack of control by local authorities over security checkpoints. Orders issued on 8 May lifting the restrictions on movement have not been uniformly followed, and access for the UN remains difficult.”

The UN statement further says that peacekeepers have witnessed increased incidents of assault, shooting and killing near the Prtection of Civilians site at their base in Bentiu.

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