The new U.N. envoy to South Sudan said Wednesday that the “guns must be silenced” in that country as the humanitarian crisis grows and gross violations of human rights are reported.
In her first briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Ellen Margrethe Loej said she is “shocked” by the “complete disregard for human life” she has seen since arriving in South Sudan.
Loej said peace cannot be delayed for even one more day and there is no alternative to a comprehensive peace agreement.
“The untold suffering of the people of South Sudan must stop. After only six weeks in South Sudan, I am convinced that every day without a political agreement contributes to a further deterioration of the situation on the ground,” said Loej.
She said the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, is still sheltering 100,000 civilians at nine protection sites around the country. Nearly two million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the violence, with nearly a half million of them seeking safety in neighboring countries. About a third of the population is facing severe food insecurity.
South Sudan erupted into violence late last year. A political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar has divided factions of the military and led to inter-ethnic fighting that has killed at least 10,000 people.
The U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, briefed the council on her recent visit to South Sudan. Speaking via a video link from Geneva, she said the conditions that displaced persons are living in are some of the worst she has ever seen. She warned that sexual violence is widespread.
“Including acts of rape, gang rape, abductions, forced marriage and sexual slavery and mutilation of sexual organs. These violations have been perpetrated by all sides in the conflict,” said she.
Bangura said sexual violence in South Sudan existed before the outbreak of violence last December. But since the crisis, it has reached alarming levels expressed in a vicious cycle of retribution and revenge. Bangura said she is also gravely concerned about ethnic dimensions of sexual attacks, especially in targeting and reprisals between the Dinka and Nuer communities.