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UN report recounts child rapes, kidnappings in S. Sudan

Charles Lomodong, AFP file picture | Child soldiers attend a disarmament ceremony overseen by UNICEF and partners, on February 10, 2015

The UN sounded the alarm Tuesday over severe human rights abuses against civilians in South Sudan, saying it has received credible reports of kidnappings and child rapes as violence in the north of the country escalates.

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The United Nation’s peacekeeping mission UNMISS said reports from Unity state in north South Sudan included "towns and villages being burned, killings, abductions of males as young as 10 years of age, rape and abduction of girls and women, and the forced displacement of civilians".

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, said it appeared the perpetrators of the attacks in Unity were soldiers with the South Sudan Army (SPLA) and mobilised youths “clad in civilian clothes, wielding AK-47s”.

Government forces have recently launched an offensive to reclaim rebel-held towns in Unity state.

“Whenever fighting intensifies between government and opposition forces, the civilian population bears the brunt,” he told a news conference. He did not have figures for how many people had been killed.

South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011, was plunged into conflict nearly 18 months ago between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former deputy, Riek Machar.

The conflict reopened ethnic fault lines between Kiir’s Dinka people and Machar’s forces, who are largely ethnic Nuer.

Fighting has been especially fierce in Machar’s native Unity state, where the UN estimates that some 100,000 civilians have been displaced and 300,000 people have been cut off from emergency food and medical aid.

Because of the recent escalation in fighting, the UN has had to withdraw its staff, while Doctors Without Borders (MSF) last week said it had shuttered its hospital in the town of Leer – also in Unity – for the second time in two years.

Franz Rauchenstein, head of the South Sudan department of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he was "deeply worried" as the frontlines moved closer.

He added that civilians in Leer are now “moving out into the swamps to hide, where they have no access to food or healthcare".

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

 

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