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Violence in South Sudan engulfs the country, 10 years after independence ‘all children have guns’

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Extreme violence and attacks involving thousands of fighters at once have affected more than three-quarters of South Sudan, researchers appointed by the UN Human Rights Council said on Friday, warning that the bloodshed facing civilians is “the worst on record” since the war began in December 2013.

Highlighting the continuing lack of local and national infrastructure almost a year after the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan, Yasmin Sooka, President of the Human Rights Commission in the country, noted that although the signing of the Agreement of Revitalized Peace Two years ago it had “led to a reduction in hostilities at the national level”, the country experienced “a massive escalation of violence” at the local level.

Power void full of struggle

Echoing this finding, Commissioner Barney Afako explained that the signing of the cessation of hostilities had left “a vacuum” at the community level.

“There are no governors or county commissioners. So, there is no one to take care of those divisions that remained. Instead, what we saw was that the weaponry that remained in the community, as well as that which is now supplied by others, fueled this community violence, ”he said.

Other worrying developments include restrictions and self-censorship among journalists and pressure groups.

New level of fear

“The level of state repression and the inability of civil society or journalists to operate is now completely different,” said Commissioner Andrew Clapham. “There are kind of levels of fear and repression from the state and the fact that they can arrest you, torture and kill you is quite different.”

In its latest report, the Commission describes “waves of attacks and reprisals” that have left hundreds of South Sudanese women, men and children dead, maimed or stranded in Jonglei state and the Greater Pibor administrative area.

Ms. Sooka told reporters via video conference that armed groups and militias had mobilized for ethnic reasons, often with the support of the armed state and opposition forces.

He highlighted clashes last year between allied Dinka and Nuer militias and Murle pastoralist militias with massive violations against civilians, including killings and displacement.

“We have documented new levels of militia violence that engulf more than three-quarters of the country at a localized level where children carry guns and women are traded as war booty as movable property,” said Ms. Sooka.

‘All children have guns’

The President of the Commission said that civilians described the combatants using weapons they had never seen before.

“A man told the Commission: ‘I went to the city of Pibor and saw that weapons were being sold there. There, the black weapons used by the NSS were sold for 25,000 South Sudanese shillings, each for less than a few hundred dollars. He also said that all children have weapons, “he said.

Ms. Sooka also described the large number of fighters involved in localized conflicts as “shocking”, noting that women were traded as “spoils of war”.

In addition, children carry weapons and the levels of violence “have already exceeded” those documented in December 2013, when the civil war broke out.

Forced to fight, identities erased

In describing the attacks in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor area, he pointed to houses “systematically and deliberately burned”, murders, forced displacement, kidnappings, rapes, sexual slavery and, in some cases, forced marriages with captors. Kidnapped children have been forced to fight and, at times, “forcibly assimilated into rival armed groups”.

These victims have had their ethnic and other identities “completely erased”, according to the Commission report, which noted that as of December 2020, hundreds of hostages remained missing, with hundreds of thousands displaced by violence and violence. recurring floods.

The South Sudan Human Rights Commission is due to present its report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 10.

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