November 30, 2016 (JUBA) – Representatives of the United States and United Nations warned on Wednesday of possibilities of tension escalating in war-torn South Sudan as well as potentials of violence.
- Arms and light weapons have been used by both warring parties in South Sudan to commit abuses (Photo courtesy of SSANSA)
“We have credible information that the South Sudanese government is currently targeting civilians in Central Equatoria and preparing for large-scale attacks in the coming days or weeks,” Keith Harper, the U.S representative at the UN Human Rights Council, said.
A similar warning, Voice of America (VOA) reported, was also made by the U.S ambassador to the world body, Samantha Power.
“We are raising the alarm. We are calling on the government of South Sudan not to move forward with the offensive they have planned,” Power told VOA.
But, in a separate interview with the Associated Press, South Sudan’s envoy to the UN, Kuol Alor Kuol Arop denied there was a build-up of forces or plans for offensives.
South Sudan is on the brink of catastrophe, a three-member UN Commission on Human Rights warned at the end of a ten-day visit.
“The stage is being set for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and the international community is under an obligation to prevent it,” the chairperson of the Commission, Yasmin Sooka announced.
The official, in a statement, cited disturbing indicators such as an increase in hate speech, a crackdown on the media and civil society, deepening divisions between the country’s 64 tribes, renewed recruitment in a country already awash with guns and the proliferation of armed groups aligned to both sides in armed conflict.
“There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages; everywhere we went across this country we heard villagers saying they are ready to shed blood to get their land back,” said Sooka.
“Many told us it’s already reached a point of no return”, she stressed.
The UN team of experts, also outlined a number of steps that the international community should take immediately to avert mass bloodshed, including the expedition of the immediate arrival of the 4,000 strong Regional Protection Force in South Sudan, ensure that the force is not restricted only to the capital, freeze assets, enact targeted sanctions and implement arms embargo on South Sudan.
“It is also urgent to set up the hybrid court promised for South Sudan,” said Ken Scott, a member of the UN Commission.
“Large parts of the country literally have no functioning courts and even the traditional reconciliation methods are now breaking down with the result that it’s a free for all”, he added.
The Commission, which is due to report to the Human Rights Council in March, visited Bentiu in oil-rich Unity State where more than a hundred thousand people are sheltering in a UN protected camp.