The United Nations on Tuesday condemned recent threats by a group of local youth to expel some of its staff working in South Sudan’s restive Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA). A group of local youth on Monday threatened to attack aid workers if they did not leave the area within 72 hours.
In a statement on Tuesday, Acting UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator, Matthew Hollingworth, criticized the threats from the youth group and called on the government of South Sudan and local communities to ensure the safety and security for humanitarian personnel.
“I am deeply concerned with the latest threat by youth groups against humanitarians serving the South Sudanese community. We are here to deliver critical assistance to the most vulnerable people, including women, children and the elderly,” said Hollingworth.
In its statement on Tuesday, the youth group in Pibor demanded that at least 30 humanitarian personnel leave the area, accusing them of being outsiders who wanted to occupy positions that in their view belonged to the local community in the Eastern Equatoria State.
The latest threat by the local youth group is not the first of its kind and will likely impact response operations to more than 100,000 of the most vulnerable people in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area. Since the start of the year, humanitarians have been threatened and attacked by youth in Renk located in the Upper Nile and Torit in Eastern Equatoria, among others; these attacks have led to the suspension of humanitarian activities and the relocation of workers.
“The worrying trend of threats and attacks by youth groups against humanitarians is unacceptable and must stop. I call on all parties, at all levels, to respect, protect and enable humanitarian action,” he said Acting UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator, Matthew Hollingworth.
South Sudan is said to be struggling to recover from years of conflict that broke out in December 2013, which has weakened its economy amid high inflation, leaving majority of its population facing high prices of commodities. The country is also said to be grappling with a humanitarian crisis as more than 7 million people are reported to be at risk of hunger this year, a situation that has been worsened by sub-national conflicts and flooding.