Thousands flee W Equatoria fighting to Uganda, DRC

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The UN’s Refugee Agency said it is increasingly concerned at recent growing insecurity in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state and its serious impact on the civilian population there.

UNHCR said in a Friday statement that there has been an apparent breakdown in law and order around state capital Yambio.

“Sporadic gunfire is commonplace, and there has also been an increase in crime involving car-jackings, attacks on government property, looting of civilian homes and sexual assaults reportedly by armed youth,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.

A recent UN mission to Yambio found nearly 200 houses burnt down in the neighbourhood of Ikpiro and several hundred others looted. People have taken refuge in the town centre or moved to nearby villages, Edwards said.

He said 15,000 people have been displaced in Yambio and Tambura counties since the start of December. Meanwhile, 500 people have entered Uganda every day since the beginning of the week to escape violence and lack of food.

Over 6000 refugees have arrived in Dungu in Democratic Republic of Congo, including 2,017 Congolese refugees who had been living in South Sudan.

“Overall, these are alarming developments for a region of South Sudan that has until now been relatively stable. The implications for humanitarian access to some 7,400 refugees living in Western Equatoria are very worrying,” Edwards said.

Western Equatoria has experienced sporadic violence across the state this year between government forces and local armed groups, some of whom are aligned with Riek Machar’s rebels. There has been an increase in fighting since the removal of elected governor Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro in August.

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