The scale of violence in South Sudan is “a lot worse” than during the country’s five-year civil war, a United Nations commission announced Friday, accusing senior officials of supporting armed groups that at times have included tens of thousands of fighters.
The new report by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan was a sharp warning that civilians are as much at risk as ever for atrocities including gang rapes, forced displacement and abductions. The civil war that ended in 2018 killed an estimated nearly 400,000 people, and millions of people are still struggling to recover.
“The violence is continuing because people know they can get away with it,” commission chair Yasmin Sooka told reporters in Geneva. There is “no doubt that the coordination is really coming from the top.”
A spokesman for South Sudan President Salva Kiir said he needed to read the report before commenting. A military spokesman could not immediately be reached.
The violence in South Sudan now is localized and differs from the civil war in that some combatants are not in uniform and community leaders, militias and religious figures are involved, Sooka said.
She described attacks on civilians as being carried out along ethnic lines and often backed by “armed state and opposition forces.”
Hundreds of people were killed between February and November last year alone, the report says.
“When you look at the numbers of people who are being killed and displaced, and in fact the scale of the way in which women are experiencing sexual violence, then certainly the numbers we see are worse than what we saw in 2013 or any period thereafter in South Sudan,” Sooka said, referring to the year the civil war began.
The report comes a year after South Sudan’s unity government was formed, with former armed opposition leader Riek Machar again becoming Kiir’s deputy. But more than two years after a peace agreement was signed to end the war, further implementation has been slow.
The new, more localized fighting began shortly after the peace deal was signed, and it continues to ravage the areas of Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Warrap and the Greater Pibor Administrative area.
Some of the affected areas have also been badly damaged by some of the worst flooding in memory, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced, while the scale of hunger in some places is reportedly edging towards famine.
Against this backdrop of vulnerability, fighters are competing for power and resources, the U.N. commission says, while large parts of South Sudan “lack any pretense to security.”
“The mobilization of tens of thousands of fighters armed with sophisticated weapons is well-coordinated and highly militarized and certainly not a coincidence,“ Sooka said.
The use of newer weapons and the scale of the fighting indicate “either the involvement of state forces or external actors,” commission member Andrew Clapham added.
Asked about the international community’s response, Sooka noted “some fatigue” after the investment in supporting South Sudan’s quest for independence from Sudan in 2011, and “incredible disappointment” that followed the eruption of civil war just two years later.
UN offers to help catch Mali jihadists behind amputations
UN peacekeepers in Mali on Thursday offered to help bring to justice jihadists behind the amputation of suspected thieves’ hands and feet, an apparent revival of a practice that had all but vanished.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, local sources in Tin-Hama in eastern Mali said armed men drummed up a crowd on May 2, a market day, and cut the right hands and left feet off three men they paraded as thieves.
The gunmen are believed to have belonged to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), one of the main jihadist groups active in the Sahel region, the UN’s Minusma force said in a statement.
“This kind of corporal punishment carried out by armed groups outside of any legal order is a serious infringement of human rights,” Minusma chief El-Ghassim Wade said.
UN forces stand ready to “support continuing enquiries by Malian authorities to fight impunity and ensure that the perpetrators of these acts are brought to justice,” he added.
Minusma also said it was deploying “significant security resources in the affected areas to step up protection of populations”.
The amputations “recall the horrors of the 2012 crisis” when jihadists and Touareg rebels took control of much of Mali’s north, the UN statement added.
At the time, various jihadist groups conducted public amputations, stonings, floggings and executions in major northern cities under their hardline interpretation of Islamic law.
Since 2012, jihadist insurgents have spread across Mali’s centre and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, with thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the violence.
UN, African and French forces have failed to put an end to the insurgency.
Unidentified men killed one soldier when they attacked a Malian anti-terrorist unit near Tominian in the country’s centre late Wednesday, while the troops killed three of the assailants, a security official said on condition of anonymity.
IPOB backs new directive by Cameroon’s Anglophone separatist leader
Nigerian Biafra separatist group— Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has backed the May 20 directive to “stay at home” from Cameroon’s Anglophone separatist leader, Dr Cho Ayaba.
Ayaba, the leader of Ambazonia, ordered a lockdown on May 20, 2021 in the English-speaking region of Cameroon, saying it was to mark the day that Cameroonian government forces began killing civilians in the region.
“The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, under the global command of our Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, hereby, directs all Biafrans living in Ambazobia to fully comply with the directive. Biafra and Ambazobia share a lot in common, and we are prepared to give them all the necessary support and solidarity in their struggle for independence,” said IPOB in a statement issued on Monday.
The Biafra group, in the statement signed by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, further said, it “urge all Biafrans living in Ambazobia to close shop on May 20, and remain indoors in full compliance with the sit-at-home order by the leader of our sister country. We equally advise all Biafrans intending to travel to Ambazonia on that day to shelve the trip until after the exercise. Biafra and Ambazobia have enjoyed a robust relationship in our struggle for self determination.
“Ambazobia has adopted 20th of May every year in honour of the victims of the genocidal killings in Ambazonia by the terrorist Republic of Cameroun. This was the day the Paul Biya-led murderous regime in Camaroun launched military onslaught and occupation of Ambazonia.
“The genocidal killing was however, challenged four years ago through stiff resistance and great sacrifices by patriotic Ambazonians. Consequently, the people of Ambazonia have decided to henceforth, observe 20th of May as a day to commemorate the Resistance and defeat of their enemy, the Cameroonian forces.
“We equally note with delight, the directive by the leadership of the Ambazonian liberation movement to all Ambazonians, to observe May 31 Biafra Remembrance Day sit-at-home order in honour of our fallen heroes. This show of solidarity between both countries is amazing, and will be sustained until and even after our independence is realised. Both countries shall continue to explore other opportunities to promote peaceful cooperation and regional security and economic advancement.”
Eid: Buhari asks Nigerians to pray against insecurity
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday called on citizens to unite and pray against the insecurity ravaging the country.
The president made the appeal in a message to Muslims around the world as they marked Eid Al Fitr after the completion of a month of fasting.
According to Garba Shehu, the president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, he said;“Unity and solidarity among all citizens, Muslims and Christians are imperative especially at a time when our country is faced with multiple challenges which are surmountable only when we come together as one.
“It is important that we remember how we share, through our faiths, common bonds that should serve to unite us and not allow ourselves to succumb to those who seek to divide us, using our two great religions, for their own selfish advantages.
“We should jointly pray against the tragic incidents of kidnapping and banditry and the desperate quest for political power expressed through blackmail against the existence of our country as a united entity.
“We must resist the temptation to retreat into our communities. I urge our political and religious leaders as well as traditional rulers to encourage our citizens to turn towards one another in love and compassion.”
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