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South Sudan: UN official urges government and opposition to protect civilians and aid workers

[JURIST] Eugene Owusu [profile], the top United Nations humanitarian official in South Sudan, called on the government and opposition [report, PDF] of South Sudan on Saturday, to ensure the protection of civilians and aid workers in the country. The plea comes after a week that saw both armed opposition forces and state security officials detain and beat up aid workers. Reports also suggested the government forces had attacked a town, killing several dozen people, forcing more than 6,000 people to flee to Uganda and forcing others to hide in the bushes around the town. Owusu called the actions "reprehensible and unacceptable" and called on both sides to stop targeting innocent parties immediately. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [official website] estimates that [UN report] more than 3.5 million people have been forced out of their homes, 1.7 million of which have fled to the neighbouring countries. At the moment, an estimated average of 2,000 refugees from South Sudan is arriving in Uganda every day, the majority of which are children.

South Sudan [JURIST feature], which was officially recognized [JURIST report] as an independent nation in July 2011, has spent much of its brief history as a nation in civil war. On Friday, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] expressed alarm at the deteriorating condition of South Sudan's security, as both governmental and opposition forces have been attacking civilians. In March, the Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said [JURIST report] that there is a need to establish courts and bring prosecutions against those who have committed rights abuses throughout the nation's conflicts. In December, the UN Security Council voted against a weapons embargo on South Sudan. In September the UN announced, and South Sudan accepted, an increase in UN peacekeeping forces [JURIST report] in the nation from 14,000 to 18,000 in an attempt to stop civilian killings, sexual assaults, and destruction of both public and private property.

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