South Sudan On The Verge of Catastrophe: Rights Chief Warns

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has warned of an imminent catastrophe in South Sudan unless the political leaders and the international community exert more efforts to halt the internal armed conflict in the new nation.

South Sudan On The Verge of Catastrophe: Rights Chief Warns
Navi Pillay speaking to the UNMISS Human Rights Head Ibrahim Wani after the Wednesday press conference in Juba. [Gurtong| Francis Apiliga Lagu]

By Francis Apiliga Lagu

Juba, 30 April 2014 (Gurtong) - Ms Pillay, who was on a two day visit to South Sudan, met both President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar, the leader of the SPLM/A in Opposition in a move to persuade the two leaders to tow the path of respect of human rights and ensure justice for all.

Ms Pillay’s visit to South Sudan was prompted by the drastic deterioration of the full blown internal conflict which is accompanied by numerous human rights violations.

 “The murder of hundreds of people, many of them civilians in Bentiu and retaliatory assaults on displaced people sheltering in UN compound in Bor which led to death of at least 50 more men, women and children have starkly underlined how close South Sudan is to calamity,” Ms Pillay told the press in Juba Wednesday.

Pillay rebuked the use of hate speech which she said greatly contributes to retaliatory attacks. "The deadly mix of recrimination, hate speech and revenge killings that have developed relentlessly over the past four and half months, seems to be reaching a boiling point," she said.

The UN rights’ boss also expressed disappointment over the laxity of top South Sudanese politicians and the international community to end the violence. "I have been increasingly concerned that neither South Sudan's political leaders nor the international community at large seem to perceive quite how dangerous the situation now is,” she lamented.

“The country's political leaders instead of seizing the chance to steer their impoverished and war battered young nation to stability and greater prosperity, have embarked on a personal power struggle that has brought their people to the verge of catastrophe."

She urged culprits of the violations of human rights to be brought to book. She however was encouraged by the promises of both President Kiir and Dr. Machar, whom she said both pledged to investigate those who committed crimes.

She was accompanied by the UN Special advisor on prevention of genocide Adama Dieng. Mr Deng said the internal armed conflict in South Sudan has taken a dangerous trajectory as civilians are being killed for the tribal and perceived political affiliation.

“What is happening in this country has put the population at high risk of serious violence,” said Dieng. “President Kiir, the head of the government and Dr. Riek Machar, the leader of SPLM/A in Opposition, must assume high responsibility for all South Sudanese irrespective of their ethnic, national or political affiliation.”

Since the conflict broke in mid-December last year, a lot of atrocities have been committed: the international humanitarian laws have been violated and over a million people have been displaced within and without the country as about 10,000 people have been killed.

The already precarious humanitarian situation has been worsened by the outbreak of crisis which emanated from power struggle between the president and his former deputy Riek Machar.

To help address the humanitarian challenges, Pillay appealed to donors to quickly respond to the appeal of aid agencies ($1.27b) to be able to provide assistance to about 4.7million people whom she said need relief assistance.

 

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