South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 but descended into conflict roughly two-and-a-half years later following irreconcilable tensions between President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Riek Machar. The Commission on Human Rights in a new report said the brutal fighting caused incalculable suffering to civilians and resulted in staggering levels of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. The Commission Chair, Yasmin Sooka, said: “It is quite clear that both Government and opposition forces have deliberately used the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and sometimes as an instrument to punish non-aligning communities, as in the case of Jonglei”.
Since gaining independence in 2011, the brutal conflict across South Sudan has caused incalculable suffering to the civilian population, resulted in staggering levels of acute food insecurity, and malnutrition, noted the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
“With 7.5 million South Sudanese currently requiring humanitarian assistance, we have found that food insecurity in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei, and Central Equatoria States is linked directly to the conflict and therefore almost entirely human-induced,” said Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka. “It is quite clear that both Government and opposition forces have deliberately used the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in these States, sometimes as an instrument to punish non-aligning communities, as in the case of Jonglei,” she added.
In the first report of its kind by a UN panel, the Commission’s 46-page report released today documents how, between January 2017 and November 2018, Government forces intentionally deprived Fertit and Luo communities living under the control of the opposition in Western Bahr el Ghazal State of critical resources, in acts amounting to collective punishment and starvation as a method of warfare, the report finds. Government commanders also authorised their soldiers to reward themselves by pillaging objects indispensable to the survival of these rural populations.
“Sustained attacks were carried out against numerous towns and villages across Western Bahr el Ghazal State over a number of years, which resulted in significant numbers of deaths, rapes, and the destruction, arson, and looting of properties,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham. “The resultant food insecurity compounded the physical insecurity, leaving civilians with no alternative but to flee. These violations formed part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population in Western Bahr el Ghazal, and can amount to crimes against humanity,” he added.
To address these and other violations and crimes documented by the Commission over the course of its five mandates, the Commission also released a 44-page report today on transitional justice and accountability, which aims to serve as a roadmap to energise the overdue implementation of the key commitments made in Chapter V of the Revitalised Peace Agreement which is a key pillar of South Sudan’s transition.
“The on-going failure to address underlying causes of the conflict has fuelled the political competition for South Sudan’s resources and corruption between political elites driving ethnic divisions and violence, and deepening impunity in the country,” said Commissioner Barney Afako. “Without the timely implementation of an inclusive and holistic transitional justice process, as envisioned in the Peace Agreement, sustainable peace for South Sudan will remain elusive,” he added.
The Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan was established by the Human Rights Council in March 2016 and extended in March 2017, and for further years in March 2018, March 2019, and June 2020, with a mandate to determine and report the facts and circumstances of, collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence and ethnic violence, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability.
Credit: United Nations Human Rights Council