United Nations Human Rights Commission has warned that ethnic cleansing is underway in war-torn South Sudan.
The three-member commission, established earlier this year, was on a 10-day visit to the country where it says it observed ”unprecedented levels of violence and ethnic tension”.
”There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape and the burning of villages. Everywhere we went across this country we heard villagers saying they are ready to shed blood to get their land back,” said Yasmin Sooka, the commission’s chair on Wednesday.
The commission visited battleground towns including Bentiu, Malakal and Wau, gathering facts and coming to the conclusion that the world’s youngest country was on the brink of a ”catastrophe”.
”The stage is being set for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and the international community is under an obligation to prevent it,” said Sooka.
Violence in the country has soared since the collapse of a peace deal in July. The conflict originally began about three years ago when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of insubordination.
The fighting has pitted President Kiir’s Dinkas, the dominant ethnic group, against Machar’s Nuer tribe.
But as fighting has spread to southern border states, known as Greater Equatoria, it has sucked in dozens of other ethnic groups that are also historically in conflict with the Dinka.
Sooka also added that the government and rebel armies were forcibly recruiting soldiers, including children citing that “renewed recruitment is an indicator that all the parties are preparing for the next conflict”.
US ambassador to the UN rights council, Keith Harper, has backed up the commission’s claim. He said that the government appeared to be preparing for large scale attacks and had in the past two weeks mobilized at least 4,000 militia fighters.
South Sudan President has however denied all the allegations by the UN Commission of an impending ethnic cleansing.
”There’s no such thing in South Sudan. There’s no ethnic cleansing,” he told a Reuters reporter in South Africa.