On September 9, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said one of its drivers was shot dead when a convoy of their vehicles was ambushed in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State.
The ICRC said Lukudu Kennedy Laki Emmanuel was killed when the convoy of nine trucks and a four-wheel-drive vehicle was shot at by unidentified gunmen while returning from Western Equatoria on Friday. The Western Equatoria region borders the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since the civil war broke out in 2013, there has been an increased influx of humanitarian aid to help curb the crisis. But whether some of the $2 billion of humanitarian assistance delivered over the past 18 months is simply fuelling the war economy and prolonging the conflict is part of the plaguing questions bedevilling the citizenry.
However, the level of death and violent treatments of humanitarian aid workers in the region has increased. This year, about 15 humanitarian workers have been killed and over 84 since the conflict erupted in 2013. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, has catalogued 492 “access” related incidents so far this year. Half of all incidents have been accompanied by violence directed against either personnel or assets.
Also, the agency said that “since January, 27 security-related incidents have forced the relocation of some 300 aid workers. These incidents signify a worsening operating environment for humanitarians in South Sudan.”
In addition, the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, said in a statement to the Security Council, “aid workers have been killed; humanitarian compounds and supplies have been attacked, looted, and occupied by armed actors. Recently, humanitarians had to leave one of the famine-affected counties because of fighting.”
The level of insecurity became worse for humanitarians in 2016 when South Sudanese soldiers invaded the Terrain Hotel in the capital city of Juba and gang-raped foreign aid workers. Reports have it that despite the calls for help to the U.N. compound a mile down the road, no one came. This incidence created a situation that further gave rise to increased rape, killings and violent treatments towards aid workers within the war-torn country.
Earlier in the year, the South Sudanese government hiked the fee for work permits for foreign aid workers from $100 to $10,000. Julien Schopp, Director for Humanitarian Practice at InterAction, an alliance of 180 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working around the world said that the amount is “absolutely unheard of globally.” This hike in fees, the increased killings and maltreatment of aid workers point to the fact that the government may be opposed to curbing the crisis in the country.
Generally, the insecurity for aid workers in South Sudan comes at the same time the need for international relief is growing rapidly. There’s a cholera outbreak, malaria is on the rise, two and half million people have been driven from their homes and millions more are dependent on international food rations. According to data on attacks on these workers collected by the Aid Worker Security Database, South Sudan is also listed as the third most dangerous country for aid workers, after Somalia and Afghanistan. This posits that just as Somalia and Afghanistan, South Sudan is on a downward slope wherein aid workers and civilians generally can never be safe.