Violence in South Sudan's Upper Nile displaces 9,000 -U.N. agencies


JUBA (Reuters) - Violence in South Sudan's Upper Nile state has killed an unknown number of people and displaced just over 9,000, some of whom are hiding in swamps, United Nations agencies said on Wednesday.

Violence is rampant in parts of South Sudan where clashes triggered by local disputes over grazing areas, water, cultivation grounds and other resources often turn deadly.

The country's volatile politics can exacerbate the friction, fanning the violence.

The latest bloodshed is a continuation of fighting that started in August in a village in Upper Nile and has since spread to other parts of the state and areas of Jonglei and Unity states, U.N refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in the latest episode of fighting in Fashoda County that started in mid-November, some 9,100 people had been displaced.

Of these, over 2,300 who had sought refuge in the Malakal Protection of Civilians site, an UNOCHA statement said.

"According to local responders at least 75% of the newly displaced are women and children, with many children separated from their caregivers," it said.

UNHCR said at least 3,000 had fled to neighbouring Sudan.

"Fleeing civilians are visibly traumatised and report killings, injuries, gender-based violence, abductions, extortion, looting and burning of properties. Many have lost their homes and been separated from their families," UNHCR said.

South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011.

Two years later, fighting broke out between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy-turned-rival Riek Machar.

A peace agreement signed in September 2018, the latest in a series reached since the conflict began in late 2013, is largely holding. South Sudan's civil war, often fought along ethnic lines, is estimated to have claimed close to 400,000 lives.

(Reporting by Waakhe Simon Wudu; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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