And the United Nations has accused government forces of executing hundreds of civilians and gang-raping several women and girls.
After speaking to Fox News last year, former government official, Joseph Bakosoro, was arrested and jailed. He recently escaped to the United States and says America must help — and soon, or another genocide is imminent.
“There are insecurities all over the country, there are gunmen all over. There is no rule of law in the country now,” he said. “Everybody’s above the law. Every individual has a gun and there is total breakdown of law and order”, he said.
There are more than 60 tribes within South Sudan, but the majority Dinka has held rule since the country’s inception. Other tribes claim to have endured mass killings, rapes and worse at the hands of the Dinka. In response, the second largest tribe, the Nuer, formed rebel forces and have gained ground in recent months.
“This is a tribal or ethnic conflict that’s been fought in South Sudan for many years, even before independence. The level of brutality has increased. The level of animosity among the tribes has continued high,” said former UN ambassador John Bolton. “We’ve got more than one million refugees, casualties that can’t even be counted and no prospect of it ending, so it’s a tragic failure for everyone involved.”
At least 73 civilian deaths have been documented so far by the U.N., but it is believed the civilian death toll may turn out to be “much higher”
Government soldiers and security forces in South Sudan executed civilians and gang-raped women and girls during and after ethnically-charged fighting last month in the capital Juba, the United Nations said on Thursday.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the government of President Salva Kiir to prosecute perpetrators and urged world powers in the U.N. Security Council to take “urgent action” to halt violence.
“While some civilians were killed in crossfire between the fighting forces, others were reportedly summarily executed by Government (SPLA) soldiers, who appear to have specifically targeted people of Nuer origin,” Zeid said in a statement.
President Kiir’s government said the UN report was misleading as there were no government forces stationed near UN bases in South Sudan.
Kiir fired six ministers allied to his long-time rival Riek Machar late on Tuesday, widening a political rift in the world’s newest state and drawing threats of more fighting.
Zeid, reporting on his office’s investigation, cited two separate incidents on 11 July in which SPLA soldiers reportedly arrested eight Nuer civilians during house-to-house searches in Juba’s Munuki area and took them to two nearby hotels, “where they shot four of them”.
On the same day, SPLA soldiers broke into another hotel where they shot and killed a Nuer journalist.
At least 73 civilian deaths have been documented so far by the U.N., but it is believed the civilian death toll may turn out to be “much higher”, said Zeid, according to a Reuters report.
“The fighting also resulted in widespread sexual violence, including rape and gang rape by soldiers in uniform and men in plain clothes,” he said, adding that Nuer, Dinka and women from the three Equatorial states were all targeted, along with foreign nationals.
At least 217 cases of sexual violence in Juba had been documented during the period of July 8-25, he said.
“In a few areas, women from various ethnic groups were raped by heavily armed youth believed to be affiliated to the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA/IO),” Zeid said.
“However, according to the information we have gathered so far, those most affected were displaced Nuer women and girls and those responsible seem to have been mostly SPLA.”
The United Nations has described then-tribal fighting as “catastrophic.” A peace deal brokered by the Obama administration last year has failed to stop the carnage. Jens Laerke at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, “”We estimate that 4.8 million people are food insecure in South Sudan, we don’t have access to all of them. It’s a very fluid situation with a lot of violence.”
Since 2011, the United States has given billions of dollars and even waived the Child Soldier Prevention Act in order to continue the funding.
Bakosoro insisted that while the U.S. has been a friend, it did a poor job of following the money it gave, thus resulting in massive corruption and even weapons purchasing that armed a military now charged with brutal crimes.
“The U.S. gave a lot of money to South Sudan without any accountability and that has made the leaders in South Sudan be unruly and unaccounted for,” he said.
Bolton agreed. “I think there were excellent reasons for the United States to support a partition of the Sudan. I think that where we made a mistake was in believing massive economic assistance and nation building could overcome the long standing tribal divisions.”
The United States has evacuated all non-essential staff and added 47 U.S. Marines for internal security. According to Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner, “We’re obviously very concerned by the violence. We’re calling on all sides to abide by the ceasefire and refrain from anymore of the destabilizing rhetoric.”
There are currently 12,000 UN troops on the ground, but very little reportedly has been done by those troops to stop the atrocities. Their mission expires August 12 and there is disagreement between the UN and U.S. about how to proceed. As a result, a planned UN Security Council trip to South Sudan Aug 15-19 was just cancelled.
Bakosoro warned, “If they don’t intervene now, I think the situation may grow worse, reaching to the point just like 1994 Rwanda genocide.”