April 6, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Sudan’s Nuer community have claimed that at least 17,613 ethnic Nuers were killed across South Sudan by private guards loyal to president Salva Kiir Mayardit after conflict erupted in December last year.
- Thousands have been killed and more than one million displaced since conflict broke out almost four months ago, in the worst violence to erupt post-secession (AFP)
The allegation was made at a Nuer community meeting, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, which brought together 4,561 Nuer members.
The meeting, chaired by Professor David De Chan and funded by James Mabor Gatkuoth, a former commissioner of Upper Nile region in 1982 during the Sudan regime, aimed to highlight ethnic targeting during the recent crisis.
The group has accused government troops of continued killings and rape in areas under their control.
“As community, we are saddened by [the] selective killing of our civilian population based on tribe and political beliefs,” the group said in statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
The community also called on the international community to step in to help end ongoing bloodshed in Juba, Malakal, Leer, Bentiu, Jonglei and other parts of South Sudan.
De Chan, a prominent Nuer professor, condemned the killing of innocent civilians who posed no threat to national security but were targeted solely based on their ethnicity.
“I was shocked to hear the death of 17,613 civilians and in particular a young man whom I was his teacher in America by then; that young man is Mr Lam Chuol Thichot. He was faced by many obstacles in the liberation time but unfortunately he was simply murdered by Kiir’s militias in cold blood,’’ said De Chan in a phone interview with Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
Professor De Chan says president Kiir must step down in order for a peaceful resolution to the current crisis, saying failure to do so would result in a massive upraising to oust him from power.
He urged the United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to urgently relocate internal displaced people to nearby countries, saying remaining in the capital, Juba, posed a threat to their safety.
He also called on the international community to pressure the Ugandan government to withdraw its troops from South Sudan or impose sanctions on its officials, as the US has threatened to do to South Sudanese officials responsible for rights abuses.
Meanwhile, Gatkuoth, a former Upper Nile region commissioner and current chairman of the National Democracy Forum, says president Kiir has lost his legitimacy after reportedly ordering his private soldiers to carry out targeted ethnic killings following the eruption of violence in Juba on 15 December last year.
The conflict has pitted government forces loyal to the Kiir, who hails from the Dinka tribe, against rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, a Nuer.
Gatkuoth has accused Kiir’s private guards of randomly shooting those who had sought shelter in UN compounds.
“We could not manage to bury them or take them to [the] cemetery without the help of UNMISS personnel for fear of our lives,” he told Sudan Tribune.
“People are still missing even after the government pronounced the full calm in capital city, while wounded Nuer civilians are followed and killed in the hospital,” he added.
Gatkuoth also condemned the destruction of civilian properties in Unity state’s Leer county, which has been under government control for the past two months.
Student and youth representatives, meanwhile, have urged the international community to strongly condemn the criminal acts allegedly carried out by the Kiir regime in Juba and across the country, calling on other South Sudanese tribes to stand up for democracy in the country.
Koang Riak Gatpieny, a representative of the Nuer Youth Union, urged Kiir to step down or face defeat from disaffected youths.
Weirial Gatyiel, one of the Juba massacre survivors, compared the alleged deliberate targeting of Nuers to the Rwanda genocide, blaming both Kiir and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni for the bloodshed. He has called for an international independent court to investigate ethnic killings and hold those found responsible to account.