December 5, 2016 (JUBA) – The United States has accused South Sudan government of deploying thousands of troops to Equatoria region, increasing prospects of violence escalation.
- SPLA soldiers drive past military tanks that were destroyed and abandoned in the recent fighting in the Jabel area of Juba, on July 16, 2016 (Reuters Photo)
The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Mark Toner said Washington is alarmed by the situation.
“The United States is alarmed by the violence in the Equatoria region of South Sudan and concerned it could quickly spiral out of control,” Toner said on Monday.
Fighting between government forces and the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) escalated to Central Equatoria state when violence erupted in Juba last July.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced from their homes to neighboring countries after their villages were also destroyed during intense fighting between the rival forces in violation of an initially-agreed upon ceasefire.
The United Nations has warned of possible genocide in the young nation, which the U.S said should be averted by holding leaders accountable and imposing an arms embargo.
“The international community must also do its part. We can do so by imposing an arms embargo to end the parties’ ability to acquire and maintain weapons. We should also impose targeted sanctions on those who seek through incitement and violence to turn their country into a graveyard. Imposing these measures will help deter other South Sudanese leaders from engaging in the same activity,” partly reads the State Department’s release.
Washington said amassing of troops by the government in Equatoria as trigger to “intolerable (situation that) will worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis.”
“The government has mobilized at least 4,000 irregular ethnic militia and deployed them to Central Equatoria - a substantial increase in the overall number of government-affiliated soldiers in the region - increasing the likelihood of more clashes with armed opposition groups and attacks against innocent civilians,” it stressed.
It further said “ethnically-motivated hate speech, the targeting of civilians, and sexual violence is becoming widespread.” At least 1900 homes have been destroyed in Central Equatoria since September, the statement noted.
Juba is yet to respond to the latest accusation of deploying troops on Equatoria. Last week, the South Sudanese army spokesman, Lul Ruai Koang, said the deployment was part of "routine" movement of the army, dismissing allegations that government forces planned to attack rebel hideouts.