News / Africa

UN Accuses South Sudan Rebels of Targeted Ethnic Killings

People fleeing violence in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, South Sudan, arrive at the UNMISS base to seek shelter, April 15, 2014.
People fleeing violence in Bentiu, the capital of Unity state, South Sudan, arrive at the UNMISS base to seek shelter, April 15, 2014.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Monday accused opposition forces in Bentiu of carrying out targeted killings, including of children, and inciting "vengeful sexual violence" against women after they captured the town last week from government troops.

"Several men, women and children believed to be of Nuer ethnicity were killed for hiding (inside Bentiu hospital) and declining to join fellow Nuers who'd gone out to welcome the opposition forces as they came into the town of Bentiu," UNMISS spokesman Joseph Contreras told South Sudan in Focus.

Contreras said members of other South Sudanese communities and Darfuris were also targeted and killed at the hospital.

Civilians killed in mosque, church

"And that same day, opposition forces entered a mosque where civilians had taken shelter, separated individuals gathered there on the basis of nationality and ethnic group, and then escorted some to safety and killed others," he said.

More than 200 civilians were killed at the Muslim place of worship, Contreras said.

People at a Roman Catholic church and the World Food Program compound in Bentiu were also singled out and killed for their ethnicity and nationality, he said. He was not able to give a precise death toll from the alleged targeted killings in the town.
Opposition forces entered a mosque where civilians had taken shelter, separated individuals gathered there on the basis of nationality and ethnic group, and then escorted some to safety and killed others.

UNMISS also said that individuals associated with the opposition have been using an FM station in Bentiu to broadcast hate speech.

"While some SPLA in Opposition commanders did broadcast messages calling for unity and an end to tribalism, others broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community," UNMISS said in a statement.

Rebel spokesman: accusations 'not true'

A spokesman for the opposition, James Gadet, denied the UNMISS accusations.

"This is not true. Our forces did not target any civilians," he told VOA.

"Some of the people that got killed, who happened to be Sudanese nationals, were members of the Justice and Equality Movement" rebel group, who were fighting as mercenaries for the government of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir,  Gadet said.

He denied that rebel forces were singling out people based on their nationality or ethnicity.

"What they were doing is to make sure the town was clear,  looking maybe for remnants of government troops. They were not looking for civilians," he said.

He also denied that the rebels were broadcasting hate speech on the local FM radio station in Bentiu.
Unity, South SudanUnity, South Sudan
Unity, South Sudan
Unity, South Sudan

"I'm not aware of this. What they were telling the civilian population is to remain calm... there was no hate message," he said.

Opposition forces recaptured Bentiu, the capital of one of South Sudan's oil-producing states, last week from government troops.

Numbers sheltering in U.N. camps spikes

The number of civilians seeking protection at the U.N. base in Bentiu has risen sharply since fighting for control of the city erupted around two weeks ago. The number grew from around 7,000 before the fighting to around 22,000 on Monday, Contreras said.

"Even before the attack on Bentiu that resulted in the capture by opposition forces... our base in Bentiu was receiving a steady influx of unarmed civilians who had been displaced by hostilities and fighting in various parts" of Unity state, he said.

At the start of April, the base housed some 4,000 internally displaced South Sudanese, Contreras said.

Unity is one of two states in South Sudan that produce oil, the backbone of the country's economy. Much of the fighting that continues to rake the young country has been centered in Unity and the other oil-producing state, Upper Nile. The largest state in South Sudan, Jonglei, which is sandwiched between the two oil states, has also seen heavy clashes.

In just over four months of fighting in South Sudan, more than a million people have been forced from their homes. Around 100,000 have sought shelter inside U.N. bases and compounds, nearly 300,000 have fled to neighboring countries and more than 700,000 are internally displaced.

No death toll has been established for the fighting in the young country, but thousands are believed to have been killed.

Updates with rebel spokesman reactions. All interviews conducted by phone from Washington, D.C. by John Tanza.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dr. Salman from: USA
April 21, 2014 9:02 PM
the UN... don't make us laugh...!!!
the UN has lost all its credibility promoting Islamic Organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood... Fatah... Islamic Jihad... Al Qaeda... Hamas... Boko Haram...
In Response

by: Nipee from: Paris
April 22, 2014 3:54 AM
Mr. Salman
Is Riak fighting religious and ethnics war? correct your words, Riak is the most criminal since ninths with blood of innocent peoples he killed in 1991

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs