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Gunmen attack UN base in South Sudan killing civillians

Mark CaldwellFebruary 18, 2016

Gunmen opened fire on civilians sheltering inside a United Nations base in South Sudan and killed five people. The fighting was between Shilluk and Dinka youth who fought each other using machetes and small weapons.

UN Soldaten im Südsudan
Image: picture alliance/Yonhap

The shooting at Malakal base in Upper Nile State began on Wednesday night and reports of gunfire continued into Thursday morning. One witness said at least seven people had been killed and 32 injured. DW spoke to Ariane Quentier, the spokesperson for the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), about the attack.

DW: Can you please bring us up to date as to what is happening at the base. Is the shooting still going on?

Ariane Quentier: It is not from outside the shooting camp but from within the compound. We have different communities who are protected by UNMISS in this compound. We have four to seven thousand people that found shelter. The fighting started on Wednesday night between the Shilluk and the Dinke youth. The fought each other using small arms machetes and other weapons. In the middle of the night five people had been killed and another 30 were injured. They were treated in the medical clinic of Médecins Sans Frontières.

What UNMISS did is that the police of UNMISS which is in charge of maintaining order immediately intervened with tear gas to disperse the crowds. Also we have been scaling our patrol around the perimeter but also physically securing areas in the vicinity of protection of civil sites. Our military is also having mobile patrol within the compound. UNMISS is currently engaging with local authorities in Malakal to try to de-escalate the situation as well as engaging with the communities leaders in order to ensure that calm and peace is restored.

So these clashes erupted within the camp no government or rebel forces were involved. Is that correct?

This fighting started within the camp, we are still reviewing the incident. There seems to have been additional fighting coming from outside, but the fighting itself - and I insist on that - started within the camp.

Ariane Quentier
Ariane Quentier, UNIMISS spokespersonImage: Ariane Quentier/UN

How did this happen and why weren't you able to prevent it from happening?

We were able to prevent the situation from getting out of hand. The conflict has been going on for two years in this area among three communities. But we were prepared we have countered potential violence, but it flared on Wednesday night for reasons that go beyond my understanding and our understanding. We are reviewing the incident and investigating. But we are not taken by surprise, this is part of the unfortunate scenario of something that could have happened. And may I remind you that we did immediately react in the middle of the night and dispersed the crowd with tear gas so we were prepared.

Do you have sufficient resources at that camp?

Well we have enough resources so far to control the situation. Force is not the only way to control the situation. We have also been engaging with the community leaders and with the local authorities to see how the situation can be further contained.

Interview: Mark Caldwell