UN warns not time to ‘take our eyes off’ South Sudan

Sudanese refugees collect water from a tap at the Gorom Refugee camp hosting Sudanese refugees on World Refugee Day, to celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict under the theme "hope away from home" near Juba, in South Sudan June 20, 2023AFP

The conflict in Sudan, which has shown how quickly “hard-won peace gains” can unravel, should not distract attention from the risks facing neighboring South Sudan, the UN envoy to the country warned Tuesday.

After gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into a civil war that left nearly 400,000 people dead and millions displaced between 2013 and 2018.

A peace agreement signed in 2018 provided a power-sharing agreement between rivals Salva Kiir and Riek Machar in a government of national unity.

But tensions remain and violent local groups continue to bloody the world’s youngest country.

Two months of fighting in Sudan, to the north, has had an impact on the country, Nicholas Haysom, who heads the United Nations mission in South Sudan, told the Security Council.

“Since mid-April, over 117,000 women, children and men have crossed over into South Sudan from Sudan along the border areas,” and 93 percent are South Sudanese returnees, he said.

That puts a strain on the country’s ability to absorb such numbers in border towns where bottlenecks have developed, Haysom said.

“Now is not the time to take our eyes off the ball in South Sudan,” the UN envoy stressed, warning that the economic impacts of the conflict “cast a shadow in an already fragile country.”

“On the political side, the conflict in Sudan reduces the much-needed bandwidth... to focus attention on South Sudan during this critical phase of its transition,” he said.