January 26, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir and the armed opposition (SPLM-IO) leader, Riek Machar should face sanctions since they control forces that have committed atrocities against innocent civilians, a United Nations panel of experts said in a report issued Monday.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 9 May 2014 aimed at resolving conflict in the country peacefully (Photo: Reuters)
According to the report, troops loyal to the two rival leaders, despite a peace agreement reached in August last year, committed human rights violations in form of sexual violence, torture and extrajudicial killings in the world’s youngest nation.
Tens of thousands of people were killed and nearly two million displaced since violence broke out in the young nation in mid-December 2013 following disagreement within the ruling party’s (SPLM) top leadership.
"There is clear and convincing evidence that the majority of acts of violence committed in the course of the war has been directed by or undertaken with the knowledge of senior individuals at the highest levels of government and within the opposition," observed the UN panel’s report.
Both sides, it said, have continued to seek to arm their forces, even after the signing of the August 2015 agreement and in the face of considerable economic stress.
“The impact of the continued influx of arms has been devastating to the civilian population and to the overall security situation in South Sudan...” it said, while also calling for an arms embargo on the conflict-ridden country.
The report, which documents series of military events in Unity, Upper Nile, Western Equatoria and Jonglei states, further claimed the over 20 months-old conflict was reduced into a tribal affair by those seeking political gains.
The armed opposition faction, for instance, received ammunition and arms from neighboring Sudan at the height of the conflict, the UN report said.
John Prendergast of Enough Project, said, “It is critical that the Experts Group established command and control responsibility for mass atrocities all the way to the very top of both the government and rebel militaries”.
The UN Security Council, he argued, should act on that evidence by holding accountable those leaders on both sides responsible for mass atrocities.
“Without accountability, the current peace process is doomed to implode under the weight of impunity for both human rights abuses and mass corruption,” added Prendergast.
The UN Security Council has repeatedly threatened sanctions against those blocking the peace process in South Sudan, but this is yet to be effected in reality.