South Sudan has witnessed a fresh outbreak of fighting in the troubled Jonglei region, which has forced thousands of families to flee their homes and seek sanctuary next to a UN base, the UN mission in the country said Thursday.

The displacement of some 6,000 people came following an attack on the village of Likuangole — 30 kilometers north of Pibor town — by armed groups last night, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said.

“We are deeply concerned by these continued attacks and the impact on civilians who are being forced to flee their homes in fear for their lives and to seek sanctuary beside our base where conditions are dire because of recent flooding,” said David Shearer, a special representative of the UN secretary general.

“Parties must immediately stop fighting, pull back and return to their home areas,” Shearer said. “Buffer zones need to be established to protect people and enable reconciliation to safely take place”. 

Shearer has accused external actors, without naming them, of being behind the conflict in the country.

“This conflict is not simply intercommunal between ethnic groups. Other political figures are at work. External actors need to stop deliberately stoking the conflict for the sake of local communities,” he said.

“UNMISS has been engaging with community leaders on the ground as well as at the national level to stop the violence since the attacks began in December 2019. It also recently transported members of the Government’s High-Level Committee, including Vice President Wani Igga, to meet with the groups in Bor to find a solution,” the statement added.

“We welcome the efforts of the Government committee to mediate and urge it to ensure the process is inclusive and representative of all those involved, including Nuer, Murle and Dinka,” Shearer said in reference to South Sudanese ethnic groups.

“This area has already been badly hit by displacement, flooding, hunger, and COVID-19. Humanitarian agencies are stretched and working at their maximum limit to support vulnerable people. There are simply no reserves to meet the needs of thousands of civilians suffering further harm as a direct result of this violence,” he added.

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