— A new report written for the African Union and made public on Monday presented an especially grim picture of South Sudan’s civil war, blaming government forces and rebels for the declining humanitarian situation in the world’s newest country.
The nine-page report, written by an evaluation commission for the African Union and dated Jan. 29, listed five violations of a cease-fire agreement, including an episode in October in which government forces were responsible for the deaths of 50 people who died from suffocation inside a shipping container. Investigators said that the rebels had looted United Nations barges and ambushed civilians, killing or wounding about a dozen people in an attack in December.
“There is limited consolidation of peace, a worrying economic decline and violence ongoing,” the report said. “The economy is in particularly dire straits, with foreign reserves rapidly diminishing, growing inflation and rapid depreciation of the national currency.”
South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan
in 2011, has been steeped in ethnic conflict since violence broke out in 2013. Thousands of people have died; thousands more are on the brink of starvation; and there have been repeated allegations of mass rape, massacres of civilians and forced cannibalism.
According to another report prepared by a United Nations panel of experts on South Sudan, both sides in the conflict are trying to build up their arsenals. The government recently bought three military helicopters that have led to “the expansion of the war, and have emboldened those in the government who are seeking a military solution to the conflict at the expense of the peace process,” the United Nations report said.
The rebels were also trying to get more arms from “numerous sources, though with comparatively limited success,” that report added.
Western powers and the African Union have tried to broker a lasting agreement between the government, which is dominated by the Dinka ethnic group, and the rebels, who are mostly Nuer, but so far the leaders from both sides appear to be opposed to any immediate reconciliation.
A veteran American official who has followed the conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan closely for more than two decades said the violence in South Sudan is the worse it has ever been. “I have never seen such brutality and pain,” said the former official, who did not want to be named for fear of disrupting already tenuous negotiations between the warring parties in South Sudan.
“There are people on both sides who are reckless and obstructionists,” he added.