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UN report: Violence in South Sudan worse than in civil war

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The violence is continuing because people know they can escape it, commission chairman Yasmin Sooka told reporters in Geneva. There is no doubt that coordination is really coming from the top.

A spokeswoman for South Sudan President Salva Kiir said he needed to read the report before commenting. A military spokesman could not be reached immediately.

Violence in South Sudan is now localized and varies from civil war in that some fighters are not in uniform and community leaders, militias and religious figures are involved, Sooka said.

She described the attacks on civilians as being carried out along ethnic lines and often backed by state and opposition armed forces.

Hundreds of people were killed in February and November last year alone, the report says.

When you look at the numbers of people being killed and displaced, and in fact the extent to which women are experiencing sexual violence, then of course the numbers we see are worse than the ones we saw in 2013 or some time after that in Sudan of the South, Sooka said, referring to the year the civil war began.

The report comes a year after the South Sudanese unity government was formed, with former armed opposition leader Riek Machar again becoming Kiirs’ deputy. But more than two years after a peace deal was signed to end the war, further implementation has been slow.

New, more localized fighting began shortly after the peace agreement was signed and it continues to destroy areas of Central Equator, Jonglei, Warrap and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.

Some of the affected areas have been severely damaged by some of the worst floods in memory, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced, while famine rates in some places are said to be heading towards starvation.

Against this backdrop of vulnerability, the fighters are vying for power and resources, the UN commission says, while large parts of South Sudan lack no claim to security.

The mobilization of tens of thousands of fighters armed with sophisticated weapons is well-coordinated and highly militarized and certainly not a coincidence, Sooka said.

The use of newer weapons and the scale of the fighting indicate either the involvement of state forces or outside actors, commission member Andrew Clapham added.

Asked about the response of the international community, Sooka noted some fatigue after investing in supporting South Sudan’s quest for independence from Sudan in 2011 and the incredible disappointment that followed the outbreak of civil war just two years later.

Maura Ajak in South Sudan contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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