Ethnic killings in Wau leave 16 dead

A 27 years old woman with her sons in a UN peacekeepers’ protected site in Wau, South Sudan. A 27 years old woman with her sons in a UN peacekeepers’ protected site in Wau, South Sudan. REUTERS 2016/Michelle Nichols

9 May 2017
On April 10, at least 16 civilians died as a result of violence perpetrated by government troops in the city of Wau, in South Sudan.

The United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the country said that the clashes originated from a surprise attack of government soldiers. According to witnesses, the soldiers went house-to-house looking for people of ethnic groups presumed to support the opposition. In 2013 South Sudan started a serious military conflict between President Salva Kiir, supported by the army and belonging to the Dinka ethnic group, and his former deputy Riek Machar, favoured by rebels and a member of the Nuers ethnic group. The conflict is strongly divided by ethnic lines, with other ethnic groups in South Sudan having formed alliances with either side.

The bodies of the 16 civilians were noticed in a local hospital by two patrols sent by a UN mission. According to the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, these killings followed weeks of tension in the area. The town of Wau is located in a region that has repeatedly been contended and hit by violence. According to Daniel Bekele, senior director for Africa advocacy at Human Rights Watch, the pattern of abuses by government forces against civilians in Wau has followed a pattern, with soldiers taking revenge against unarmed civilians based on their ethnicity. He said, “The South Sudan authorities need to call a halt to the killings, investigate and bring those responsible to justice’’.

In order to avoid the latest clashes in Wau, 84 people sought refuge at the UN mission area in the city and at least 3000, mostly women and children, moved to a local site run by the Catholic Church. Overall, about 200,000 people have taken shelter in several protected sites across South Sudan because of the underway-ethnic conflict.


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