A UN commission to South Sudan has warned of a repeat of the Rwanda genocide, as Dinka troops kill, burn and rape civilians across the country with impunity.
The Human Rights Council commission warned that a repeat of the Rwandan genocide was potentially very likely and spoke out against the normalisation of gang rape as a weapon.
“There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing under way in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages,” Yasmin Sooka, the commission chairperson, said in a statement.
“The stage is being set for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and the international community is under an obligation to prevent it.”
Up to 800,000 people died during the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis by Hutu government troops.
The president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, denied the UN allegations when asked for comment by the Reuters Africa bureau chief in Johannesburg.
“There’s no such thing in South Sudan. There’s no ethnic cleansing,” Kiir told Reuters.
|It must be clearly understood that UN peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities
– Ban Ki-moon
Speaking at a press conference in Juba on Wednesday, Sooka warned of “unprecedented levels of violence and ethnic tension” and a “crumbling” sense of national identity.
“Given this country is home to 64 tribes this offers a multitude of fault lines along with this nation can fracture.
“I repeatedly heard of the desire for revenge and a process of concentrating people from one tribe – the Dinka – in the army and civil service.”
According to local NGO workers, gang rape is now so prevalent in the country that it has become a normalised form of warfare.
Ban Ki-moon told the UN earlier this month that the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan, UNMISS was now almost entirely unable to stop the violence in the country.
“It must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities,” said Ban.
The head of the UN’s peacekeeping force in South Sudan UNMISS, Ellen Margrethe Loej, will step down at the end of the month and many are calling for a stronger presence in the region.
The commission made three suggestions to help stop the violence – namely, the arrival of a Regional Protection Force in South Sudan with an extra 4,000 troops, targeted economic sanctions and an arms embargo.
The commission was formed in March under Human Rights Council resolution 31/20.