Government and Opposition Leadership Should Publicly Denounce Atrocities Committed by their Forces in South Sudan

Juba, April 26, 2014 (SSNA) — Over the past week, details have emerged about atrocities committed by various groups in Bor and Bentiu, two state capitals in South Sudan’s Upper Nile region.

In Bor, a group of armed protesters stormed the compound of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and opened fire on some 5,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had sought refuge there. Preliminary reports suggest that at least 58 people were killed, including women and children.

In Bentiu, hundreds of civilians were massacred after Opposition forces recaptured Bentiu. Approximately 200 people, many of them Sudanese traders from Darfur, were reportedly killed at a mosque where they had sought shelter. A hospital was also targeted.

These most recent events are the latest in a series of war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed by all sides in this conflict, and yet another terrible reminder of the criminal manner in which the war is being fought. Since the earliest days of the conflict, when elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) went on a rampage killing hundreds of unarmed civilians in Juba, non-combatants have bourn the brunt of the harm. Government and Opposition forces have slaughtered the sick and elderly in their hospital beds, committed acts of rape and sexual mutilation, and killed children. Most recently, in Bentiu, forces controlling the radio station have been disseminating messages of hate and urging men to rape women.

Both sides are blaming the other for being more brutal and killing more civilians, but neither has stepped up to publicly denounce atrocities committed by its own forces. The leadership of the two sides should call on their forces to stop targeting civilians and publicly denounce these incidents as the acts of cowardice that they are.

The civil war in South Sudan has entered its fourth month and there is no end in sight. Humanitarian relief agencies indicate that South Sudan is on the verge of the worst famine that the world has experienced in a quarter century. The longer the war continues the more entrenched interests will become and the harder it will be to negotiate a resolution. South Sudanese from all walks of life must put aside the hate, stop the senseless revenge attacks, withdraw support from those who would use violence to win or maintain power, and begin working to secure the future of our country.

In order to bring an end to the violence and begin mending the deep wounds that it has inflicted upon South Sudanese society, Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ) recommends the following to the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)-in-Opposition:

  • Publicly denounce crimes committed by your forces and hold accountable those who directly target civilians as well as those with command responsibility over the acts;
  • Adhere to the terms of the January 2014 Cessation of Hostilities agreement and desist from acts of aggression against one another;
  • Stop obstructing efforts to broaden the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-led mediations in Addis Ababa and allow contributions from civil society, the church and other independent groups that are advocating for nonviolent change in South Sudan;
  • Provide free and secure access to conflict affected parts of the country for members of the African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry that was recently formed in order to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in South Sudan.

* For queries, please contact Lona James, Chairperson for CPJ at +211 955 022 367 (S. Sudan), +254 706 913 020 (Kenya), [email protected], or David K. Deng, Secretary for CPJ at +211 954 890 507 (S. Sudan), +254 703 754 068 (Kenya), [email protected].

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