Rights group documents fresh South Sudan ‘war crimes’

Amnesty International’s report, based on research following a government offensive on Leer and Mayendit counties in the northern Unity State between April and June. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Rights group documents fresh South Sudan ‘war crimes’

NAIROBI: A rights group on Wednesday accused the government of South Sudan and its allied militias of carrying out “war crimes” of “staggering brutality” during an offensive earlier this year.
Amnesty International’s report, based on research following a government offensive on Leer and Mayendit counties in the northern Unity State between April and June, catalogued the testimonies of around 100 civilians who escaped the attacks.
“The offensive was characterised by staggering brutality, with civilians deliberately shot dead, burnt alive, hanged in trees and run over with armored vehicles,” Amnesty said.
The group also documented “systematic sexual violence,” rape and gang-rape as well as abductions of women and girls, and the deliberate killing of young boys and male infants.
The killings echo the type of brutality meted out to civilians that has characterised South Sudan’s war since the start.
Amnesty said the latest offensive began in April and continued until early July, “a week after the latest cease-fire was brokered on 27 June.”
That cease-fire paved the way for the signing last week of another peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar aimed at ending the vicious five-year-old civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people, pushed millions to the brink of starvation and scattered refugees across East Africa.

Battle for power

The battle for power between Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and Machar, a Nuer, meant the conflict quickly took on an ethnic character with civilians targeted by both sides for massacre and widespread rape.
UN rights experts have warned of “ethnic cleansing” and the threat of genocide.
Amnesty blamed a failure to prosecute perpetrators for the continuing violence.
“The only way to break this vicious cycle of violence is to end the impunity enjoyed by South Sudanese fighters on all sides,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s senior crisis adviser.
In a rare example of justice, 10 soldiers were found guilty earlier this month of an attack on a hotel in the capital Juba in which five foreign aid workers were gang-raped and a South Sudanese journalist killed.
But commanders and their political masters are not held to account.
A so-called “hybrid court” to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, proposed by the African Union as part of a failed 2015 peace agreement, has not been set up.
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, broke away from Sudan in 2011 after a long and bloody independence struggle, but just two years later the new war began triggering one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.


Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

International and local electoral observers arrive to attend briefing by the chairman of the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about preparations for the rescheduled general elections in Abuja, on February 20, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 14 min 37 sec ago
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Nigeria votes for a new president after delay

  • Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement

ABUJA: Nigerians vote for a new president on Saturday after a week-long delay that has raised political tempers, sparked conspiracy claims and stoked fears of violence.
Some 120,000 polling stations were due to open at 0700 GMT, from megacity Lagos and the oil hub Port Harcourt in the south, to ancient Kano in the north and the country’s rural heartlands.
Results are expected from early next week, with the winner gaining control of Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer for four years.
In a crowded field of 73 presidential hopefuls, the two frontrunners — incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, 76, and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 72 — are expected to vote in their home towns.
Electors are also choosing 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators from a choice of 6,500 candidates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last Saturday announced a one-week delay to the election, just hours before it was due to get under way.
That angered voters who had already traveled to their home towns and villages to participate, and saw the main parties accuse the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result.
Neither has produced evidence and the elections watchdog has worked round the clock to overcome difficulties in delivering materials, which it had blamed for the postponement.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu has given an indication of the scale of the task, announcing that more than 825,000 temporary staff had been drafted in to help conduct the vote.
More than 80,000 vehicles and nearly 1,000 boats have been hired to transport ballot papers, results and other materials to and from polling units.
“I want to reassure you that elections will be held on Saturday,” he said on Thursday. “There won’t be another postponement.”

The logistical fine-tuning, however, has been overshadowed by comments from Buhari that he had ordered security forces to be “ruthless” with vote-riggers and ballot-box snatchers.
Critics said his warning was a “license to kill” to the police and the military, while Abubakar said his comments were not fitting for an elected head of state.
Buhari has since sought to reassure voters not to be afraid, promising an “atmosphere of openness and peace, devoid of fear from threat or intimidation.”
Analysts SBM Intelligence say 233 people were killed in 67 incidents of election-related violence from last October to Friday — an average of two people per day.
The election campaign has come against a backdrop of wider violence from Boko Haram Islamists and criminal gangs in the north that have killed more than 200 people this month alone.
That could affect participation in some affected areas and combine with voter apathy from last weekend’s postponement to affect turnout, according to analysts.
Just over 84 million people were registered to vote but only 72.7 million (86 percent) of those will be allowed to vote, as they have picked up their voter identity cards.

In 2015, former military ruler Buhari became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president, beating Goodluck Jonathan by 2.5 million votes.
Buhari has again vowed to be tough on insecurity and corruption, and wants to complete much-needed road and rail infrastructure projects, as well as social mobility schemes.
Abubakar is a pro-business free marketeer whose main pledges have been to privatise giant state-run companies and float the embattled naira currency.
Nigerian elections have previously been characterised by voting along ethnic and religious lines.
But with Buhari and Abubakar both northern Muslims, that could split the northern vote, making southern states a key battleground.
Opponents have accused Buhari of trying to manipulate the judiciary that would rule on any dispute about the results, after he suspended the country’s chief justice this month.
Nigeria’s Business Day newspaper on Friday said whoever wins has to repair a “broken economy” limping back from recession, and hit by high unemployment, inflation and weak growth.
Some 87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty, with the gulf between haves and have-nots widening.