Violence against civilians in South Sudan

South Sudanese woman among UNMISS soldiers South Sudanese woman among UNMISS soldiers © AFP/GETTY IMAGES

This article is a brief presentation of the report of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on violence against civilians

In its last report, the UNMISS Human Rights Division (HRD) documented the violence affecting civilians between April and June 2020. The UNMISS HRD assesses four major forms of harm affected on invididuals: killing, injury, abduction and sexual violence. To document conflict-related abuses and violations, the UNMISS HRD has developed “an incident-based tracking mechanism” by which the data are disaggregated by the sex and the age of victims. Sources of information also include incidents documented by the UNMISS Civilian Affairs Divisions and reports from secondary sources identified during field missions.

The report states that despite an increase of the number of incidents by 52% s, the number of civilians affected by conflict-related violence has decreased. This can be attributed to the COVID-19 restrictions which may have had an impact on UNMISS HRD’s capacity to document all incidents. However, during the second quarter of 2020, more than 417 incidents occurred involving 1,620 civilians. The report further shows that the number of abductions has decreased as compared to the  previous reporting period  which can be attributed to the formation of the Unity Government in February 2020, which led to a reduction of forced recruitments for military purposes.

The UNMISS HRD identified intercommunal clashes as the main cause of violence, accounting for more than 86% of all victims. Clashes mainly occurred amongst Dinka sections in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Gawar and between Lou Nuer sections and the Murle. Due to the involvement of different actors, such as organized forces, civil defence groups and armed-community-based militias, intercommunal violence continues to pose a threat to civilians despite the ongoing peace process.

The report’s findings further show that men continue to be the majority of civilian victims (1,360 individuals), followed by women and children (123 individuals). Despite this, women and children are disproportionately affected by the conflict-related violence and the indirect effects of conflict in regard to their ability to access to health care and education. Furthermore, the UNMISS HRD documented cases of sexual violence, including rape and sexual slavery, which mainly affected women. The main hotspots of conflict-related sexual violence are the Yei area of Central Equatoria and the Unity State. However women remain primarily subjected to killing (41%) and abduction (29%).

Among all parties being the source of  conflict-related violence, the community-based militia are the main perpetrators of such violence accounting for 86% of civilian victims as documented by the UNMISS HRD. In regard to the attacks in Jonglei and Greater Pibor, the report underlines the complex organization and structure of these groups which often receive support  by their spiritual leaders. The second highest number of conflict-related violence is committed by the government forces, which are responsible for 11% of  civilian casualties.  

Concluding, the UNMISS HRD demonstrates  geographical trends in violence affecting civilians. Areas of Yei and Mundri (Western Equatoria) experienced a high degree of violence which, in the second quarter of 2020, expanded further into Maridi and Tambura, along the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Compared to the previous report, violence between government forces and pro-Machar Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO/RM) led to an increase of civilian victims in the Tambura area while military operations against the National Salvation Front (NAS) were the cause of the majority of civilian victims in Mundri.


To learn more, please read:


Author: Silvia Luminati

Read 544 times