Allies of South Sudan militias must be held accountable, UN agencies say


The UN issued a report on Monday calling on the South Sudanese authorities to hold accountable the military and political figures who are supporting community-based militias in the Greater Jonglei region, in order to prevent further violence.

The new human rights report, jointly issued by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said organised and heavily-armed community-based militias from the Dinka, Nuer and Murle communities carried out a wave of planned and co-ordinated attacks on villages across Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) between January and August 2020.

“Six months after the last devasting attack in Greater Jonglei, it must be made clear that those key figures at both local and national levels, who deliberately fuelled and exploited localized tensions, will be held accountable,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

“The risk that these community-based militias will reignite armed violence is too grave to ignore. It is of paramount importance that the Government takes effective steps to ensure that members of the security forces are prevented from supplying weapons from Government stocks to these militias,” she added.

The report underlines that the South Sudanese Government needs to take full responsibility for the harm inflicted on civilians as more than 738 people were killed, and 320 wounded, during the reporting period, while at least 686 women and children were abducted, and 39 women were raped.

The violence also displaced tens of thousands of people.  Civilian property and humanitarian facilities were looted or destroyed, and at least 86,000 cattle, worth over $35 million, were stolen.

Although grassroots efforts to reconcile the affected communities have been underway for months, the authorities have not taken meaningful action to investigate and prosecute those responsible, the report said.

The report found at least 50 traditional chiefs and spiritual leaders, as well as military and political elites, supported the attacks, whether directly or indirectly.

Members of Government and opposition forces were also actively participated in the fighting, according to their kinship, or as part of a calculated move to reinforce political alliances.

UNMISS peacekeepers were deployed to affected areas when the violence erupted, establishing temporary bases and conducting regular patrols in efforts to deter further attacks.

The UN Mission engaged with political and traditional leaders, both at the national and local level, to promote reconciliation and to support efforts to release the hundreds of women and children who were abducted.

The report calls for the Government to finalize the appointment of local administrators and assemblies throughout Jonglei and the GPAA.

The authorities are also urged to investigate all allegations of human rights abuses and to prosecute the perpetrators, and to ensure state-owned weapons are securely stored to prevent theft or supply to community-based militias.

The report also called for immediate action to facilitate the release and reunification of abducted women and children with their families. (Source: UN News)