The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) announced on Tuesday, December 3, that it has sent a contingent of peacekeepers to Western Lakes state amid a surge in inter-communal violence. According to local officials, as many as 79 people have been killed and another 101 wounded since clashes broke out between the Gak and Manuer communities on November 27.
Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses are to be expected in Western Lakes state over the coming days.
South Sudan has been wracked by years of political, interethnic, and intercommunal violence - exacerbated by border and oil revenue disputes with Sudan. Following the 2011 signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that gave the country its independence from Sudan, the predominantly north-south conflict has given way to a pattern of internal violence. Since December 2013, the country has experienced an intermittent civil war waged between President Salva Kiir's government and the SPLA on one side, and the rebel forces of the SPLM-IO, led by former Vice President Riek Machar, on the other. A 2015 peace agreement has failed to prevent outbreaks of ethnic and political violence and the conflict has continued despite international support for state-building and peacekeeping - including the 12,000-strong UNMISS force, deployed since 2011. Various factions had signed what was supposed to be a permanent ceasefire on December 21, 2017, in an effort to revive the 2015 peace agreement; however, the ceasefire was violated three days later.
Many Western governments advise against nonessential travel to South Sudan. Certain regions should be particularly avoided, including the former states of Unity and Upper Nile, the north of former Warrap state, parts of the former Eastern and Central Equatoria states, and areas along the border with the Central African Republic, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If travel is necessary, ensure that proper security protocols are in place.