GENEVA – A United Nations panel of experts report released today has found that South Sudan government forces have used starvation as method of warfare against Western Bahr el Ghazal’s Fertit and Lou tribes, as well as against others in Central Equatoria and Jonglei states.
South Sudan, world’s youngest country, went into deadly civil war in December 2013, just two years into its independence. The civil war which has mostly been fought along ethnic lines has killed around half a million and displaced millions more to neighboring countries as others become IDPs within.
“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 chair of UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, 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.
The Commission’s 46-page report 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 fueled 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.