Thursday, July 06, 2017

South Sudan's Atrocities

South Sudan, but it is a very under-reported conflict. Very few people around the world even know that Sudan is the biggest refugee crisis in the world in terms of how fast it grows. Why it is so difficult to solve is because both parties, government and opposition forces, are not being put under the kind of pressure that they should be put under by the international community. There are certainly more measures that the international community should take such as an arms embargo, targeted sanctions on specific individuals. None of that has been done until now. Nobody has been held accountable. So, those who are responsible for these unspeakable atrocities against civilians, until now have been able to enjoy impunity. Impunity is in large part what is fueling this conflict.

According to Amnesty International, South Sudan's ongoing atrocities have turned the country’s breadbasket into a killing field. Both government and opposition forces use food as a weapon of war. 

In South Sudan's Equatoria region, government and opposition forces have committed war crimes and widespread human rights abuses against civilians.  Amnesty International reveals that men, women and children have been shot, hacked to death with machetes and burned alive in their homes. Women and girls have been gang-raped, some after having been abducted. Homes, schools, medical facilities and humanitarian organizations' compounds have been looted, vandalized and burned down. Both government and opposition forces use food as a weapon of war. Such atrocities have already forcibly displaced close to a million people from their homes in a food-rich region which could feed millions but it has become a place where even the small percentage of inhabitants who remain are facing acute hunger and malnutrition. 

 Basically those who are involved in the conflict, especially the government of President Salva Kiir on one hand and the rebel forces led by Riek Machar on the other hand, but also local armed opposition groups which are not necessarily operating exactly under the main SPLA opposition has resulted in a situation where at the moment neither side can win and neither side is losing. And so they are continuing to fight and couldn't care less about the fate of civilians. If men are caught, they are killed; if women are caught they are raped.

The bulk of the abuses are being committed by government forces and their allied militias - the Mathiang Anyor militia. However, the rebel fighters are also committing the same kind of abuses, although on a much smaller scale. Why are they targeting civilians? They are targeting civilians because they can. Because civilians have no way of defending themselves and each side is accusing civilians of being supportive of the other side. That's why men are rounded up, massacred, shot dead, hacked to death, locked up in huts and set on fire and women are very often gang raped, whether in their homes or when they go out to the rural areas trying to look for food.

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