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People displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor queue for medical care.
People displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor queue for medical care.

Evidence of mass graves, forced cannibalism and rape in South Sudan conflict

The African Union has accused South Sudanese forces of extreme violence since the country’s civil war began nearly two years ago.
Oct 29th 2015, 6:04 AM 17,452 29

Warning: Some readers might find the contents of this report disturbing. 

MASS GRAVES HAVE been found in South Sudan with evidence of war crimes, including forced cannibalism, according to an African Union human rights inquiry.

The AU’s Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan lists a string of abuses, including rape and dismemberment, in its report on the country’s ongoing civil war, published yesterday.

The 22-month conflict has killed tens of thousands and left over 2 million people displaced.

The report also presents testimony that the ethnic violence, which began in the South Sudanese capital of Juba in December 2013, may have been pre-planned.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that acts of murder, rape and sexual violence, torture and other inhumane acts… have been committed by both sides to the conflict,” the report said.

However, it added that there were “no reasonable grounds to believe that the crime of genocide has occurred”.

South Sudan Violence A cross made of sticks and religious blanket lie on top of the grave of a child wounded during fighting in Bor. Source: AP

The 342-page report calls for an internationally-backed, African-led court to try those responsible for the violence.

It said a “highly confidential list” of “possible alleged perpetrators” will be submitted to the AU’s Peace and Security Council.

Among the most shocking of many acts of “extreme cruelty” identified in the report were claims of, “draining human blood from people who had just been killed and forcing others from one ethnic community to drink the blood or eat burnt human flesh”.

South Sudan Violence South Sudanese government soldiers prepare to leave from the outskirts of Juba in January 2014. Source: AP

‘Most atrocities against civilians’ 

The commission, led by former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, carried out its research in 2014.

But publication was delayed as African leaders and AU officials feared the report might undermine peace talks.

A peace deal was finally signed by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in August of this year but has been repeatedly broken.

Much of the worst of the documented violence was carried out in Juba, where soldiers of Kiir’s Dinka tribe massacred ethnic Nuers, and in the town of Bor, where Nuers loyal to Machar killed Dinkas.

South Sudan Violence A man walks in a hospital ward of mainly soldiers with gunshot wounds in Juba. Source: AP

The report gave little credence to Kiir’s claim that the civil war was triggered by Machar planning a coup, and included testimony that the Dinka-on-Nuer violence in Juba had been prepared for in advance.

“The Commission found that most of the atrocities were carried out against civilian populations taking no active part in the hostilities. Places of religion and hospitals were attacked, humanitarian assistance was impeded, towns pillaged and destroyed,” said the report.

The commission said an independent “hybrid” court should be established by the AU, as well as a reparations fund and a truth commission.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: South Sudan army raped then burned girls alive

Read: I learned how to write in the dirt as a child soldier – now I’m an aid worker in the same conflict

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