Unspeakable suffering in South Sudan

2014-11-10 21:00
Rwandese peacekeepers patrol in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan camp in Malakal, South Sudan. ( Ali Ngethi, AFP)

Rwandese peacekeepers patrol in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan camp in Malakal, South Sudan. ( Ali Ngethi, AFP)

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Juba - Residents of war-torn South Sudan are enduring "unspeakable abuse and violence" as well as the threat of famine, a leading aid agency said in a report on Monday.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the level of violence in the country, including ethnic massacres and gang rapes, was for some people even worse than during the brutal decades-long struggle for independence from Khartoum.

South Sudan, which secured independence in 2011 and is the world's youngest nation, has been locked in civil war since December last year, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy of attempting a coup.

"Yet again we are seeing a humanitarian catastrophe where the most vulnerable are bearing the lethal brunt of a man-made political crisis that must be resolved immediately," IRC president David Miliband said.

"Other global crises and the narrow avoidance of famine this year are no excuse for policy-makers to allow this emergency to drift into the 'too difficult box'. The civilian population is systematically targeted with unspeakable abuse and violence and near constant threat of looming starvation while the parties to the conflict re-arm."

The IRC report detailed food shortages and rising food prices that are "threatening tens of thousands of children with starvation", "shocking failings to prevent ethnic slaughter and sexual violence", aid agencies unable to reach hundreds of thousands of people and the country left with a "dangerous dependency on aid".

"Without an end to conflict... the crisis in South Sudan will turn into a hopeless cycle of aid dependency, ethnic slaughter and shameful sexual violence," it said, calling the situation "desperate".

According to the IRC's Melanie Teff, many South Sudanese said they had "suffered and witnessed even greater horrors than during their country's many decades of wars with the north."

She said most of those displaced by the fighting "are still living in fear, of further physical and sexual attacks, or of malnutrition and diseases caused by inhumane living conditions, or of losing any chances for their children's future."

The report came as South Sudan's government and rebels accused each other of breaking a new ceasefire agreement - just 48 hours after President Kiir and Machar ended direct talks in Addis Ababa and vowed to immediately end the war and form a unity government.

Kiir and Machar signed a ceasefire at the start of the year and several subsequent deals to renew it, but the truces have been short-lived.

Read more on:    riek machar  |  salva kiir  |  south sudan  |  east africa

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