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UN experts urge South Sudan leaders to end attacks on civilians

February 17, 2023 at 7:24 pm

Members of Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan Commissioner Barney Afako, Commissioner Andrew Clapham while addressing the media [@UNCHRSS/Twitter]

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan experts has called on South Sudanese leaders to end attacks on civilians and prioritise peaceful and just transition.

“After nearly five years of delays in the implementation of the 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement, South Sudan’s political leaders must seize the opportunity to reset the country toward peace, democratic transformation, and prosperity,” the human rights commission said.

“The suffering across the country remains immense. South Sudanese women and girls continue to face unspeakable sexual violence. Political leaders must reorient their priorities and work together to put an end to this needless violence and protect the human rights of South Sudanese. Without a change of approach, the transition will falter,” Commissioner Barney Afako told reporters on Friday.

Afako was speaking during a press conference after concluding 11th visit to South Sudan, from Feb. 14 to 18.

Afako appreciated the opportunity to visit South Sudan and to have meaningful discussions with a range of people to learn more about the human rights situation and prospects for the credible conclusion of this transition period.

“On a visit to South Sudan one year ago, we warned that the country was at a tipping point, given the limited time left to implement critical parts of the peace agreement.

“Although the transition period has now been extended, there is still an enormous amount of work to do to advance the peace process. South Sudanese are desperate to see greater energy and determination among their leaders to address human rights,” Afako added.

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Commissioner Andrew Clapham said that their Commission has documented human rights violations in South Sudan for many years, but they were still shocked by the sexual violence and continuing attacks against civilians.

“The accounts from survivors are horrific. Many people the Commission has met have experienced attacks over and over again. At the same time, people responsible for crimes walk free.”

He said that the Commission continues to identify individuals responsible for serious crimes under both South Sudanese and international law.

“We keep a confidential list of names and collect and preserve evidence against them which could be used for future prosecutions by the Hybrid Court or other suitable accountability mechanisms. We will be identifying some individuals who bear responsibility for certain events covered in our report in this next report for the UN, we would hope that the Government would take steps to hold them accountable,” said Clapham.

The spokesman of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces, Major Gen. Lul Ruai Koang said that the government has been working hard to provide protection to civilians across the country.

He said that there are some positive steps taken already by the government to address the issue of violence in the country and still going own to do more.

Koang also said that some of those who are committing crimes are not loyal to the government and they should be held accountable by the international community.

He said that some militias are now operating independently and they are killing civilians and they are not loyal to the government.

Koang also said that the military has weaponry issues, which he said delayed the deployment of unified forces that recently graduated to provide protection to civilians since the country has been given arm embargo and they cannot import arms to the country.

READ: UN body says $1.7bn needed to support most vulnerable in South Sudan in 2023