Is South Sudan threatened with genocide?

Human rights organization accuses UN Secretary-General of trivializing the conflict (Press Release)

All conflict parties should be reminded that fundamental human rights must be respected, and that they must ensure humanitarian aid for the hungry civilian population. Photo: Robert Stansfield/Department for International Development via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has accused UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of trivializing the dramatic human rights situation in South Sudan. During a press conference in Nairobi (Kenya) on Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General stated that the threat of an imminent genocide had “considerably diminished“. “The United Nations should not trivialize the risk of a further escalation of these most serious human rights violations, as this would be the wrong signal to send to the international community,” criticized Ulrich Delius, the STP’s Africa-expert, in Göttingen on Thursday. “Instead of playing down the serious human rights crisis, the United Nations should – more than ever before – feel obliged to remind the conflict parties in South Sudan that fundamental human rights must be respected, and that they must ensure humanitarian aid for the hungry civilian population.”

This week, the STP had sent an appeal to the World Security Council to convoke a special session on South Sudan and to demand all conflict parties to stop fighting immediately, thus allowing aid workers to help the starving civilian population. In the course of dealing with the hunger catastrophe, there is a risk of serious human rights violations as well.

To substantiate his controversial statement, Guterres had referred to a “common strategy” between the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to reduce the violence in southern Sudan. “His optimistic appraisal stands in remarkable contrast to the alarming reports of UN human rights experts, human rights organizations, and those who are directly affected,” said Delius. It was only on Wednesday that a representative of the ethnic group of the Shilluk had accused the government of South Sudan of ethnic cleansing. “Now, the UN must put more pressure on all the conflict parties in South Sudan – or the country will be facing widespread deaths. Trivializing the situation might cost tens of thousands of lives.”

In the scope of a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the STP had accused the AU of failing to fight impunity in South Sudan. In the peace agreement signed in August 2015, the AU had committed itself to the establishment of a special court for the prosecution of crimes in South Sudan – but this has not yet been implemented.