November 12, 2016 (JUBA) - South Sudan violence risks spiralling into genocide, warned a U.N. special adviser on prevention of genocide on Friday, adding that there is an urgent need to investigate the ongoing grave human rights in Yei.
- Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, addresses a press conference in Juba on Friday 11, 2016 (UNMISS Photo)
"I am dismayed to report that what I have seen and heard here has confirmed my concerns that there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide," said Adama Dieng, U.N. special adviser on prevention of genocide, in a press conference held in Juba at the end of his second visit to the country since May 2014.
He said he realized that instead of developing national identity, there is extreme polarization in the young country between some tribal groups. Also, he stressed that tribal divisions "increased in certain places since the outbreak of violence in July this year".
"Throughout the week, conversations with all actors have confirmed that what began as a political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war," he said.
During his five-day visit, Dieng met with the UNMISS staff, South Sudanese government officials, religious leaders, civil society groups and community members. He also visited the UN protection site in Juba and travelled to Yei near the border with Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He regretted that previous commitments to end violence made by the South Sudanese officials during his first visit have not been honoured, adding that the "conflict becomes ever-more complex" , and ’’any hope of reconciliation is elusive’’.
The visit of the UN special adviser on prevention of genocide to Juba comes after the publication of a report by a UN investigation panel into the violence which occurred in Juba in 2016 and UNMISS response
South Sudan has been riven by ethnic violence since the eruption of armed conflict between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and forces supporting Riek Machar in December 2013 .
A peace agreement was signed in August 2015, but violence has resumed in different parts of the country since July 2016. Tens of thousands have been killed and more than 2 million displaced.
GRAVE SITUATION IN YEI
Dieng dedicated important part of his speech in the press conference about the situation in Yei which is the only area that he visited during his second visit to the country.
Speaking about Yei, UN official called to probe the human rights violations in the state, stressing the gravity of the situation there "merits immediate intervention – a full scale fact-finding investigation and enhanced humanitarian support"
To explain the reason of the visit, Dieng motioned reports about the expulsion of farmers from their agricultural plots into Yei town.
"These farmers have lost their homes and belongings, livestock and land. Property has been looted and villages have been burned," he said.
"I heard reports of violence that included targeted killings, assault, maiming, mutilation, rape, and the barbarous use of machetes to hack families to death. Bodies have been found in the river," he added.
He said the ongoing violence forced civilians to flee Yei, adding that during his visit he saw saw families packing up the few belongings they have left and waiting on the side of the road for transport – either to Juba or to neighbouring Uganda.
"The signs are all there for the spread of this ethnic hatred and targeting of civilians that could evolve into genocide, if something is not done now to stop it. I urge the people of South Sudan to take action," he said.