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South Sudan's worst enemy: its own armed forces?

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“The general point is, the operations by all the parties [to the violence] are done without any respect for human rights and humanitarian principles,” one Western official told me last week in the southern capital.

Since the outbreak of violence between rebel forces loyal to a war-time Khartoum-backed militia leader, Peter Gadet, and the SPLA in late April in oil-rich Unity state, independent international aid groups including Médécins san Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) have told the Monitor that a combination of conflict-related factors are inhibiting their work on malnutrition, water and sanitation, and other vital health and livelihoods activity.

"Since the end of April, it's been very difficult to go to these places [in Unity state] because of the fighting," MSF's Gautam Chatterjee told the Associated Press on Tuesday, citing the adverse impacts of these restrictions on MSF's ability to treat malnourished children and wounded civilians.

One issue aid groups are less willing to comment explicitly on is the ugly trend of the SPLA literally stealing aid groups supplies, including fuel, in order to support their own army campaigns at the expense of necessary humanitarian assistance.

However, the OCHA report, last updated in May, does provide details on the “threats and abuses targeting humanitarian staff, assets, and compounds” by southern security forces and local authorities, documenting a particularly terrible incident in April, when six humanitarian vehicles were commandeered by SPLA troops in Lakes state – a key rear base for army operations in the strategic border states – and five of the drivers were forced to drive into the western part of Unity state, where clashes then erupted between the SPLA and a rebel militia. Two drivers went missing for two weeks, and the OCHA report notes that subsequent reports indicate that one of the drivers was killed.

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