By: AGGREY MUTAMBO
South Sudan’s warring parties used the media to incite tribes against each other, a report by the African Union has stated.
A report by the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan shows that “war crimes” were committed by both sides in the conflict.
The document, which has been published more than eight months later than expected, indicates incidents where perpetrators of violence used public radio to incite the public against each other.
“The Commission heard testimony of incitement to violence through broadcasts from Bentiu FM when it was taken over by the opposition who broadcast in Nuer exhorting Nuer men to rape Dinka women,” the document states.
The radio station in the capital of Unity State is owned by the government but rebels allied to former Vice-President Riek Machar reportedly ejected reporters when they took control of the town, before telling the public to target Dinka women, the report states.
One witness told the commission, headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, that the rebels told Nuer men to also fight the Dinka and remove them from “our place.”
But witnesses for the rebels also accused government forces of targeting Nuer youth and going on a killing spree despite several peace agreements between Dr Machar and President Salva Kiir.
“Serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) amounting to war crimes have been committed by both warring parties. In the Commission’s view, the context in which these violations and crimes were committed is a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) involving governmental (and allied) forces and SPLM/IO (and allied) fighters.”
In Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, the media were used to incite violence, with a radio station being used to incite the Hutu against Tutsi.
About 800,000 people were killed in 100 days.
The Commission of Inquiry in South Sudan says it did not find evidence of genocide like that witnessed in Rwanda, but concluded radio had been used similarly to foment hatred.
The commission’s findings confirm claims by human rights groups that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed.
“The Commission heard of some captured people being forced to eat human flesh or forced to drink human blood. both sides to the conflict have violated human rights. Alleged perpetrators include soldiers, militia, rebels and civilians,” the report stated.
The incidents happened in Bor (Jonglei State), Bentiu (Unity State), Juba and Malakal (Upper Nile state) and Bah el Gazal.
Most of the atrocities were carried out against civilians and churches, mosques and hospitals, and in some instances aid agency stations were targeted.
In addition, witnesses told the commission that both sides were recruiting children to fight and soldiers who surrendered to the government were killed.
The commission concluded from the evidence gathered that war crimes of rape and torture were committed against civilians in and around Juba.
“The evidence on record also points to members of the security forces of the government being involved. The evidence collected also suggests that war crimes of forced enlisting of children in the army were committed,” the report stated.
The report was to be released in February this year during the African Union summit in Addis but was shelved after Ethiopia, Uganda and South Africa tabled a motion to postpone its publication for the sake of peace in South Sudan.
At the time, regional bloc Igad (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) was mediating a long-term peace agreement between President Kiir and Dr Machar over a possible transitional government.
Civil society groups protested the decision, arguing it would delay justice.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION