Africa 15.8.2016 01:26 pm

South Sudan forces accused of atrocities

South Sudan army (SPLA) soldiers guard Bor airport on December 25, 2013

South Sudan army (SPLA) soldiers guard Bor airport on December 25, 2013

HRW said government forces from the president’s army appeared in many cases to target non-Dinka civilians.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Monday accusing South Sudanese soldiers of murder, rape and looting property, including humanitarian goods, during and after clashes between government and opposition forces in the capital Juba during July.

HRW said government forces from President Salva Kiir’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) appeared in many cases to target non-Dinka civilians.

Kiir leadership, and most of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), are members of the Dinka ethnic group.

“As a result of indiscriminate attacks, including shooting and shelling, shells landed in camps for displaced people inside United Nations bases, and in other densely populated areas in the city, killing and wounding civilians,” said HRW.

HRW researchers visited Juba in July after the clashes, documenting multiple crimes – most committed by SPLA government soldiers.

Meanwhile, a Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) spokesperson, described as “self-deception” a Friday resolution by Kiir’s cabinet to integrate Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) forces into the SPLA.

James Gatdet Dak, a spokesperson for Riek Machar, the ousted former first vice president, said the new “illegal” first vice president, Taban Deng Gai – Machar’s replacement after he fled the capital in fear of his life – had no army to integrate.

Dak said the majority of opposition forces remained loyal to Machar and only a small percentage of them would follow Gai’s directive to integrate into government forces.

Dak further accused Gai of political opportunism and selling out the opposition to Kiir at the expense of conditions negotiated by the opposition in April’s peace agreement as a prelude for joining the new transitional unity government.

The failure of the new unity government, which is now in disarray, to commence even functioning has analysts predicting the worst for the world’s newest country.

Seasoned journalist Helmoed Heitman, South African correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly and an expert on conflict in Africa, told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview on Monday morning that the chances of a new civil war in South Sudan appeared stronger than ever.

“What is desperately needed is the immediate deployment of a huge neutral force to separate the warring factions and enforce peace and that force would need to stay at least 10 years,” said Heitman.

“The force that would have to go in would have to be big enough and strong enough to counter military resistance from the SPLA which is no pushover militarily, even if it has outdated fighter jets and equipment,” Heitman told ANA.

However, despite the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) pushing for such a force to be sent to Juba, Kiir and the SPLM have prevaricated about such a deployment, stating categorically at one point that such a deployment of foreign soldiers would be a legitimate military target.

“This would require determined political will from both the AU and the UN and that remains uncertain. You just have to look at how the AU caved in to resistance from Burundi when the organisation wanted to deploy a peace force there,” added Heitman.

“You also have to consider what role Sudan is playing in the destabilisation of South Sudan.

“Machar is dependent on Khartoum for support and Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir is on record of not only opposing the establishment of South Sudan, but also has a history of fomenting trouble by playing various sides against one, another both in Sudan and in South Sudan.”

In addition to negative regional political proxy involvement, neighbouring countries such as Uganda’s refusal to contribute troops to any AU-UN force in South Sudan, further limits the size of any possible third force in Sudan.

Uganda is currently preoccupied with fighting rebels operating from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) and doesn’t need further destabilisation on its northern borders.

“Without the deployment of an effective third force, the antagonism amongst the various warring factions in South Sudan will continue and none of these players are going to play by the rules,” explained Heitman, expatiating on how the country’s current instability could ultimately deteriorate into a new civil war.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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