By Mable Nakibuuka
The government of the United States of America has vehemently condemned the attack on a United Nations (UN)World Food Program Convoy in South Sudan that occurred this week.
The attack was condemned in a statement released by Morgan Ortagus, the US State Department Spokesperson, in which she stated thus;
“The United States is deeply concerned by the attack on a United Nations World Food Program (WFP) humanitarian cargo convoy in South Sudan this week. As a result of this attack, an aid worker remains missing and three are injured. We express our sympathy to the family of the missing aid worker and wish the wounded a full and swift recovery.”
She added that; “Humanitarian aid workers in South Sudan and throughout the region work under extremely challenging conditions to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable men, women, and children. This is the second attack on humanitarian cargo vessels in this area in the past two months. We call on the Government of South Sudan to investigate this attack fully and expeditiously and provide the security necessary to ensure the safety of aid workers who are delivering critical life-saving services and assistance.”
She also noted that; “The United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the people of South Sudan, providing nearly $907 million in humanitarian aid in FY 2020 through UN and NGO partners. We continue to stand with the South Sudanese people to help address their ongoing humanitarian needs and demonstrate the long-term commitment of the U.S. Government and international community to South Sudan’s stability.”
Meanwhile, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan issued a statement on Wednesday, October 7, condemning an attack on a World Food Programme (WFP) Nile River convoy in Lakes State in which three aid workers were injured.
The WFP convoy, consisting of three cargo vessels and an escort boat, was reportedly ambushed in the Shambe area of the state on Monday, October 5, whilst delivering food aid from Bor to communities displaced by recent flooding in Melut and Malakal.
One of the cargo vessels was reportedly sunk after coming under sustained small arms fire from the riverbank. At least one crew member from the sunken cargo vessel is reported to still be missing and is presumed to have been killed in the attack.
Further attacks on both overland and river traffic are likely in Lakes State and other areas of South Sudan in the medium term.
Although the incident is the first major attack on a humanitarian river convoy, multiple attacks against aid workers have been reported in the country in recent years, including ambushes of road convoys and communal violence incidents. At least seven aid workers have been killed in the country in 2020, bringing the total since the beginning of the civil war in 2013 to 122. The majority of those killed have been local South Sudanese humanitarian agency and NGO employees, but expatriate aid workers have also been targeted.
It should be noted that travel in all areas of South Sudan is hazardous. Banditry and lawlessness are common in remote regions, particularly along the borders with the DRC and Central African Republic. Violent crime in such areas often targets foreign nationals and there have been reports of foreign nationals being victims of kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, and murder.
Criminal and militant ambushes occur regularly on roads in isolated parts of the country as well as on routes leading to Juba. The Juba-Nimule road and other routes near the border with Uganda have seen a particularly high number of attacks on convoys and single vehicles in recent years