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UN experts call for prevention of ethnic cleansing in South Sudan

November 30, 2016 (JUBA) - The world’s youngest country is on the brink of catastrophe, a three-member United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan warned at the end of a 10-day visit.

Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, addresses a press conference in Juba on Friday 11, 2016 (UNMISS Photo)

“The stage is being set for a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and the international community is under an obligation to prevent it,” the Commission chairperson, Yasmin Sooka warned Wednesday.

The official specifically cited disturbing indicators such as an increase in hate speech, a crackdown on the media and civil society, deepening divisions between the country’s 64 tribes, renewed recruitment in a country already awash with guns and the proliferation of armed groups aligned to both sides in armed conflict.

“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 Sooka.

“Many told us it’s already reached a point of no return”, she added.

Ken Scott, a member of the commission, advocated for the urgency in the need to establish the hybrid court promised for South Sudan.

“Large parts of the country literally have no functioning courts and even the traditional reconciliation methods are now breaking down with the result that it’s a free for all”, he stated.

During their 10-day visit, the Commission reportedly met several displaced women in the Juba camp who were allegedly gang raped in the July attacks and have yet to receive adequate medical treatment for resulting complications, four months later.

“The scale of rape of women and girls perpetrated by all armed groups in South Sudan is utterly unacceptable and is frankly mind boggling,” stressed Sooka.

“Aid workers describe gang rape as so prevalent that it’s become ‘normal’ in this warped environment but what does that say about us that we accept this and thereby condemn these women to this unspeakable fate?” she added.

In Wau town, where ethnic tension remains high, civilians reportedly gave graphic accounts of how their husbands and children were robbed and murdered by soldiers from the army during violence in June in which at least 53 people were killed.

“The impact of this spreading violence is much more widespread and serious than earlier thought,” said Commissioner Godfrey Musila who visited the area.

Meanwhile, the three-member UN Commission of experts suggested a number of steps that is said the international community should take immediately to avert mass bloodshed. Among such measures, it said, is to expedite the immediate arrival of the 4,000 strong Regional Protection Force in South Sudan, ensure the force is not restricted only to the capital, freeze assets, enact targeted sanctions and implement an arms embargo.