A new United Nations report paints a bleak picture of South Sudan as teetering on the edge of genocide and experiencing ethnic cleansing, adding to crises that now include famine and systematic rape in the three-year-old civil war. The seven-month inquiry by the UN Commission on Human Rights into South Sudan is the most comprehensive report so far and includes new details on deliberate starvation and bombardment of civilians, as well as the use of hate speech by top officials including President Salva Kiir. "Violations have mainly been committed by government soldiers, members of the National Security Service, police officers and militias aligned with" government forces, the report says. The takeaways:
- Refugees: Tens of thousands have been killed, and more than 1.5 million have fled, becoming Africa's largest migrant crisis.
- Hunger: Late last month, the UN and South Sudan's government declared a famine in two counties affecting 100,000. Roughly 1 million are at risk of starvation, per the UN. The report calls restrictions on humanitarian aid access "unlawful," and warns that the "'scorched earth' policy may amount to starvation, which is prohibited by international law as a method of warfare."
- Ethnic violence: Intense fighting emptied a town of 20,000, with one leader saying, "My people are at risk of physical and cultural extinction." The report cites "numerous reports of SPLA soldiers targeting Nuer civilians and raping Nuer women." Many of South Sudan's forces, like Kiir, are ethnic Dinka.
- The government response: Ethnic cleansing and the risk of genocide are "not an accurate report. There is nothing happening. The people of South Sudan are preparing for the national dialogue," a rep told the AP.
- Rape as a weapon: "Several women the commission met" were denied treatment for injuries from "rape, gang rape, beating, sexual assault or other violence," despite "significant damage to their reproductive organs." One survivor said she witnessed another woman who begged her rapists to kill her instead. "After raping the woman, soldiers cut her genitalia and left her for dead as punishment for 'being stubborn,'" the report said.