JUBA: Fighting between rival communities in a disputed region claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan has killed 54 people, including two UN peacekeepers, the United Nations said on Monday, calling for calm.
The clashes in Abyei, a contested oil-rich territory straddling the border of both countries, broke out at the weekend, according to local authorities.
In a statement on Monday, the US, the UK and Norway — the international “troika” that sponsored South Sudan’s independence — said they were “deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in recent months between communities living in and around” Abyei.
“All leaders who have influence with involved communities and who fail to use it to support peace are demonstrating their disregard for the interests of their people,” the troika said.
The UNISFA said it “strongly condemns these attacks against civilians and peacekeepers. Currently, according to local authorities, 52 civilians have lost their lives, while 64 others are said to be gravely wounded.”
It said peacekeepers came under fire on Sunday “while transporting affected civilians from a UNISFA base to a hospital”. A Pakistani peacekeeper was killed, and “four uniformed personnel and one local civilian sustained injury”, it explained.
Earlier on Saturday, a Ghanaian peacekeeper was killed, UNISFA added, calling for an investigation into the violence.
Located between Sudan and South Sudan, Abyei has been a flashpoint since the South gained independence in 2011.
Rou Manyiel Rou, secretary general for the Abyei Special Administrative Area, said the violence was tied to a long-running “conflict between (the) Ngok and Twic” communities.
The attacks follow clashes in November last year that killed 32 people, including a UN peacekeeper.
A regional UN envoy expressed concern in November that fighting within Sudan was drawing closer to the country’s border with South Sudan and Abyei.