Statement attributable to Mark C. Toner, Deputy Department Spokesperson:
The United States is alarmed by the violence in the Equatoria region of South Sudan and concerned it could quickly spiral out of control. The UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide warned this week that the South Sudanese “conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war” and that it “could evolve into genocide if nothing is done now to stop it.” The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan reported ethnic cleansing in multiple parts of the country, with people driven from their homes through murder, starvation, gang rape, and the burning of villages. This situation is intolerable, will worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis.
Ethnically-motivated hate speech, the targeting of civilians, and sexual violence is becoming widespread. We have confirmed that more than 1900 homes have been destroyed in Central Equatoria since September. The government has mobilized at least 4,000 irregular ethnic militia and deployed them to Central Equatoria – a substantial increase in the overall number of government-affiliated soldiers in the region – increasing the likelihood of more clashes with armed opposition groups and attacks against innocent civilians.
Further violence is not, however, inevitable. Leaders on all sides can and must order an end to all attacks on civilians immediately and work to create the conditions for peace.
The international community must also do its part. We can do so by imposing an arms embargo to end the parties’ ability to acquire and maintain weapons, especially heavy weapons, military vehicles, and aircraft. We should also impose targeted sanctions on those who seek through incitement and violence to turn their country into a graveyard. Imposing these measures will help deter other South Sudanese leaders from engaging in the same activity.
We cannot turn a blind eye to these crimes, and must ensure that all those who order, incite or commit violence against civilians are held accountable, including through rapid creation of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan. We will continue to demand unhindered access for UNMISS and humanitarian actors, and support the UN’s mandate to protect civilians and to deploy the Regional Protection Force to Juba. Lastly, we will continue to support local conflict mediation efforts and an inclusive political dialogue as a means to address grievances.
Distributed by APO on behalf of U.S. Department of State.