The dire situation in South Sudan is setting the stage for a genocide like that of Rwanda, a United Nations commission member warns, and the international community is obligated to prevent it.
“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 Yasmin Sooka, one of three members of a UN Commission on Human Rights completing a 10-day visit to the country.
“Many told us it’s already reached a point of no return,” she said in a statement.
The Commission, which also includes Kenneth Scott and Godfrey Musila, recommended steps that the international community must take to avert mass bloodshed.
They include the immediate expedition of a 4,000 strong Regional Protection Force in South Sudan, and ensuring that the force is not restricted only to the capital. Other actions including the freezing of assets, targeted sanctions, and immediate action on an arms embargo.
The team’s visit included Bentiu, Malakal and Wau, where they gathered reports of ethnic tensions that drive mass killings, routing gang rape by soldiers – and appeals for the world to act rather than produce more reports.
“The impact of this spreading violence is much more widespread and serious than earlier thought,” said Musila. The conflict has spread to previously unaffected regions like the Equatorias, with reports of bodies routinely dumped at roadside, mass starvation and an exodus of refugees seeking to flee.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has denied the UN findings, Reuters reports.
Image: UN OHCHR File Photo