UN warns mass atrocities real risk in South Sudan

AP News
Posted: Nov 16, 2016 4:48 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns that there is a real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, following a sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement.

In a report to the Security Council released Wednesday, Ban said that U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan lack the manpower and capability to stop mass atrocities should they occur.

"There is a very real risk of mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan, in particular following the sharp rise in hate speech and ethnic incitement in recent weeks," the report states. "While the secretariat will continue to make every effort to implement the mandated task of protecting civilians through the use of 'all necessary means,' it must be clearly understood that United Nations peacekeeping operations do not have the appropriate reach, manpower or capabilities to stop mass atrocities."

In the report, Ban repeated earlier calls on the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the country which he said is "inundated with weaponry."

He also said that government restrictions on the peacekeepers movements have led to mission paralysis and are undermining humanitarian operations in the world's youngest nation.

The director of U.N. humanitarian operations John Gink, who had just returned from a visit to Haiti, Sudan and South Sudan reinforced Ban's concerns at a news conference Wednesday.

"Of the three countries I visited, South Sudan is the one that causes the most alarm in terms of the trajectory the country is on," Gink said. "In every element of the functioning of the country you are seeing a deterioration."

He said he visited the country together with the U.N.'s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng who last week warned that South Sudan risked spiraling into genocide.

South Sudan has been riven by ethnic violence since shortly after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011.

In 2013, the country was plunged into civil war when government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, battled rebels led by his former vice president Machar, who is a Nuer. A peace agreement was signed in August 2015, but fighting continues. Tens of thousands have been killed and more than 2 million displaced.

Ban's report recommended that the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force first deployed in 2011 be renewed for another year.