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UN fears ‘outright ethnic war’ in South Sudan

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South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup (AFP Photo/Charles Atiki Lomodong)

South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup (AFP Photo/Charles Atiki Lomodong)

The UN’s special adviser on preventing genocide, Adama Dieng, said Friday he feared an escalation of ethnic violence in South Sudan which unless stopped, could trigger genocide.

“I have seen that there is extreme polarisation among some tribal groups, which has increased in certain places” since July’s fierce fighting in Juba between President Salva Kiir’s largely Dinka soldiers and his arch-foe Riek Machar’s mostly Nuer rebels, Dieng said at a press conference.

“Inflammatory stereotyping and name-calling have been accompanied by targeted killings and rape of members of particular groups, by violent attacks against individuals or communities on the basis of their perceived political affiliation,” the UN adviser said at the close of a week-long visit.

Dieng said that “what began as political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war”.

“There is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines with potential for genocide,” he added.

“With the stalling of the implementation of the peace agreement, the current humanitarian crisis, stagnating economic and proliferation of arms, all the ingredients are there for escalation of violence.”

South Sudan, the world’s newest country, gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in December 2013, leaving tens of thousands dead and displacing more than 2.5 million people.

A peace deal between Kiir and Machar in August last year had raised hopes of peace, until clashes erupted once again in July in the capital.

Dieng said that in Yei, in the southwest, he had “heard reports of violence that included targeted killings, assault, miming, mutilation and rape by armed men, some in uniform and others not.

“There are cases of barbarous use of machetes which reminds (us) of Rwanda,” he added, referring to the 1994 genocide there.

“Genocide is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. And because it is a process and one that takes time … it can be prevented,” he added.

“I urge the people of South Sudan to reconcile.”


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