Violence Erupts in South Sudan Peacekeeping Camp, Killing 18

The UN peacekeeping mission said youths from the Shilluk and Dinka ethnic groups — both staying at the site — began fighting on Wednesday night using small arms and machetes.
February 19, 2016, 11:19am
Photo by Charles Lomodong/EPA

Fighting at a United Nations compound sheltering people fleeing conflict in South Sudan has killed 18 people, including two Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers, the international medical aid group has said.

The South Sudanese MSF staff members who died were attacked in their homes during fighting that lasted around three hours, the medical charity said in a statement.

South Sudan's UN peacekeeping mission, UNMISS, initially said on Thursday that fighting between youths sheltering in the UN compound in Malakal on Wednesday night had killed five and wounded 30 after violence erupted between two ethnic groups.

People have been taking refuge in UN-administered "protection of civilian" sites, or POCs, since December 2013, when a dispute between President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar caused the newly independent country to descend into civil war. Thousands have been killed and more than 2 million people displaced from their homes since late 2013.

A spokesperson for UNMISS, Ariane Quentier, emailed the Daily Beast in response to a question about how the violence unfolded, and said: "UNMISS police in charge of maintaining order within the protection sites immediately intervened with tear gas to disperse the crowd... UN troops have further increased perimeter patrolling while physically securing areas in the vicinity of the 'Protection of Civilians' site. UNMISS is also engaging with local authorities in Malakal to de-escalate the situation."

Related: South Sudan Forces Accused of Leaving 50 People to Suffocate in a Shipping Container

MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said it had also treated 36 people wounded in the fighting, including at least 25 with gunshot wounds.

"This attack on civilians is outrageous and we demand that armed groups stop these actions," said Marcus Bachmann, coordinator of MSF projects in South Sudan.

UNMISS said youths from the Shilluk and Dinka ethnic groups — both staying in its protection site — began the fighting on Wednesday night using small arms, machetes and other weapons.

The Malakal site shelters 47,791 people out of a total 198,440 that live in six of UNMISS bases throughout South Sudan, according to the peacekeeping mission.

This comes as tentative steps towards peace are being made. Kiir and Machar signed an accord last August to end fighting that has killed thousands of people.

The warring parties agreed in January to share ministerial positions in a transitional government of national unity, and earlier this month Kiir reappointed Machar to his old post as vice president.

Related: South Sudan's War Just Turned Two — And the UN Says Its Peacekeepers Aren't Leaving

_Follow VICE News on Twitter: _@vicenews