Up to 3,000 people are reported to have fled renewed violence in and around Yambio, capital of Western Equatoria State. Following a breakdown in talks between the government and the locally recruited South Sudan National Liberation Movement (SSNLM), confrontations between the SPLA troops and SSNLM fighters have escalated into a fierce battle for control of the town.
Civilians have sought shelter in their thousands at the ADRA UN Base. UN peacekeepers have deployed outside the gates to the ADRA facility and are also patrolling the area to provide protection for displaced persons fleeing the fighting. The facility has been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of civilians. Food and shelter are in short supply, with many civilians fleeing without the opportunity to gather supplies.
It’s been reported that the SSNLM Commander Victor Mwanga was injured in a series of SPLA raids on sites within Gangura currently controlled by the SSNLM. The Uze area which lies between SPLA-controlled Yambio and Gangura payam has since become the site of intense fighting with civilians unfortunately caught in the crossfire.
Reports are also circulating that the SPLA has been engaging in the arbitrarily arrest and detention of youths. There have also been reports of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the burning and looting of property by the SPLA.
It has also been confirmed that Angelo Parakondo, a commissioner, was killed along with his driver within Yambio. Conflicting testimonies make it impossible at this time to determine whether he was killed in the crossfire or was deliberately targetted by one or the other parties.
Despite the unrest, Governor Patrick Zamoi has requested government employees to return to their offices and for the market to reopen. It is unclear how he expects this to happen given the enduring cackle of gunfire.
The SSNLM is one of several armed groups operating in the Yambio area. Their leadership is drawn from ex-SPLA officers from throughout Western Equatoria. According to Radio Tamazuj, following a peace deal brokered in November 2015, the SSNLM had been acting as an intermediary between authorities and other armed groups in the area.