UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday condemned South Sudan’s army and opposition rebels for stealing food and humanitarian supplies as the country’s conflict escalates.
Ban expressed alarm at the growing death toll in the month-old confrontation between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar and insisted UN peacekeepers would not help either side.
The secretary-general “strongly condemns the commandeering of humanitarian vehicles and the theft of food stocks and other relief items by both government and anti-government forces,” his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
Ban hit out hours after the UN mission reported dozens of people who took refuge at a UN compound had been wounded in fighting between Kiir and Machar’s forces.
The two sides were engaged in “heavy fighting” near the Malakal base in Upper Nile state, the spokesman said earlier.
Stray bullets from heavy machine guns and tanks hit some of the 20,000 people who have taken shelter in the compound.
Ban made a new appeal for a ceasefire to give a chance to negotiations brokered by the East African region’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
“He reiterates that those responsible for attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers and UN personnel will be held accountable, and that the United Nations will continue to actively protect civilians applying strict impartiality,” Nesirky said.
Meanwhile, the government said more than 200 people fleeing Malakal died when an overcrowded ferry capsized on Tuesday in the White Nile.
“The boat was overloaded with people,” Banak Joshua, the director-general of disaster management at the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry.
“Most of the casualties were children because the adults probably swam to safety,” he said.