UN blames South Sudan leader for horrific July violence

UN blames South Sudan leader for horrific July violence
3 min read
09 September, 2016
A team of UN experts believe that South Sudan's leader Salva Kiir and the army chief were responsible for an outbreak of violence in July - including attacks on civilians.
South Sudan's president has been blamed for July violence [Anadolu]

Violence that engulfed South Sudan's capital Juba in July was "directed by the highest level" of the country's military a panel of UN experts has said, and not former Vice President Riek Mahcar as was earlier believed.

The confidential report was shown to AFP and hints at the involvement of President Salva Kiir and army chief of staff Paul Malong in the fighting that began on 8 July, which included aerial attacks and artillery bombardments.

"The relatively large scale of the hostilities which featured the deployment of MI-24 attack helicopters - in coordination with ground forces - reinforced by armed units, support the conclusion that the fighting was directed by the highest level of the SPLA command structure," said the report.

After interviewing South Sudanese officers, the UN team concluded that Kiir and Malong had the authority to order the attack helicopters into combat. Malong acted "with Kiir's full knowledge" during the offensive.

The finding dismissed suggestions that the violence in Juba was carried out rogue elements in the military, as was earlier believed. 

More than 300 people were killed between 8 and 11 July, while tens of thousands fled the country.

Horrific violence

The United Nations reported a surge in sexual violence, mostly by the ethnic Dinka-dominated soldiers against Nuer women and girls.

The two-and-a-half year conflict has escalated from a "primarily political to a tribal war", said the report.

Among the most horrifying reports to emerge from the conflict was that dozens of soldiers gang-raped and beat aid workers in a "well-coordinated attack" on a Juba housing compound.

Kiir's government has entered into contact with a Lebanese-registered firm, Rawmatimpex, to build a small arms manufacturing plant in South Sudan.


Over four hours, between 80 and 100 soldiers overran the Terrain compound, beat and abused, raped and gang-raped at least five international aid workers and executed an NGO worker.


"The soldiers damaged every single room, and looted the compound extensively, taking over 25 vehicles," the panel said.

"Considering the degree of violence inflicted, the high number of armed actors who participated, the vast quantity of items stolen and the systematic damage exacted on the sprawling compound, the panel has concluded that this attack was well coordinated and cannot be considered as an opportunistic act of violence and robbery," it added.

The panel described the attack as a "clear turning point in the level brutality inflicted by South Sudanese soldiers on international humanitarian personnel", it added.

A separate investigation has been established to report on whether UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians - including the aid workers at the Terrain compound, who sent several text messages to the UN mission pleading for help.

Despite these horrific accounts, experts said arms sales to South Sudan's military were continuing, citing the recent purchase of two L-39 jet fighters, one of which was used in combat operations in July.

Kiir's government has entered into contact with a Lebanese-registered firm, Rawmatimpex, to build a small arms manufacturing plant in South Sudan. The results of these talks are not yet clear.

South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands have died and more than 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes.