South Sudan government forces killed 114 civilians, UN says

Andreea Campeanu  file

Tens of thousands of people have died in the civil war, and more than three million people have been uprooted.

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 file photo, women stand outside a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) site distributing soap, blankets, and other items in Yei, in southern South Sudan.

Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights office said on Friday that South Sudanese pro government forces killed at least 114 civilians in and around Yei town between July 2016 and January 2017, as well as committing uncounted rapes, looting and torture.

Citing data from South Sudan's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, the report said 46,000 Dinka civilians, mainly from Yei town, had been registered in Juba by the end of 2016. "It's not true", he told the AP.

As Government forces chased him, fighting simultaneously broke out along the route, particularly in Yei, fuelling strong divisions along ethnic lines and resulted in targeted killings, arrests, rapes and mass civilian displacement of more than half of the population of the town.

The new report says opposition forces also have been responsible for abuses in South Sudan's conflict, now in its fourth year.

During a seven-month offensive, the South Sudanese army and allied militias killed 114 civilians in the town of Yei as they pursued rebel leader Riek Machar. But after deadly violence erupted in the capital, Juba, in July, fighting spread to parts of South Sudan that had been spared by the conflict.

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The U.N. report said that rebel forces had also committed crimes, including murder and rape, but the extent of their infractions was unclear because of a lack of access.

The U.N. report said that Yei, a town in the country's southwest, was previously an ethnically-diverse town of up to 300,000 residents.

South Sudan said Wednesday the recent restructuring of the top echelons of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) is within the 2015 peace agreement and it started the professionalization process of the army that has struggled to shed off the guerilla character within its ranks.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has "reconciled" with former chief of army General, Paul Malong Awan.

South Sudan has been in chaos since Kiir and Machar's rivalry first sparked a conflict in December 2013, with United Nations investigators finding gang rape on an "epic" scale, ethnic cleansing and, most recently, famine.

The UN estimates about three million South Sudanese, a quarter of the population, have fled their homes, parts of the oil-producing country are in starvation and top UN officials have warned of a possible genocide.

The U.N. called on all sides to lay down their arms and for the government to investigate abuses and prosecute those responsible.

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