The killing of an International Committee of the Red Cross humanitarian aid worker on the weekend has forced the organisation to suspend all operations in the Equatoria region of South Sudan until further details of the event are learned.
Assailants ambushed a convoy of nine trucks and a vehicle returning from seed and food distribution in Western Equatoria, shooting driver Lukudu Kennedy Laki Emmanuel and causing his vehicle to spin out of control and crash. Emmanuel joined the ICRC 3 years ago as a driver to support his wife and four children.
Juba Mari Aftret Mortvedt, a spokesperson for the ICRC, stated that “the convoy was marked with the Red Cross emblem which is ICRC protection in areas of conflict and we need to understand why it was not respected … the next time we go on these roads, we must make sure we are respected and the Red Cross emblem is respected. We encourage all parties not to attack humanitarian workers because it’s important for us that we get access and safe passage to help the people in need in South Sudan.”
As a guideline, ICRC teams must notify all parties to the conflict of their presence before embarking on humanitarian missions.
Mortvedt acknowledged that, since war broke out in South Sudan in 2013, this is first severe attack on an ICRC aid convoy, though thirteen aid workers have already been killed in South Sudan on similar missions.
The conflict began as South Sudan became independent from Sudan, following years of tension between the two nations. It has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, and almost 12 million to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Uganda, which hosts 1 million refugees.
Under international humanitarian law, attacks against humanitarian relief personnel (or non-combatants) in conflict constitute war crimes.