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Rift Valley Institute

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Abuses lead to calls for accountability in South Sudan

JUBA, 21 January 2014 (IRIN) – The UN warned this month that acts committed by both sides in the South Sudan crisis could amount to crimes against humanity, and urged parties engaged in peace talks to establish mechanisms to ensure accountability for the violence.

A victim of the conflict in South Sudan, which has plagued the country since December 15, 2013. Photo: Phil Moore

"What I saw was a horror,” said Ivan Šimonovic, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at a press conference in Juba on 17 January. "The priority is to achieve a ceasefire – but to transform a ceasefire into sustainable peace, more will be needed than bilateral talks.”…

This crisis may present an opportunity to address the issue of impunity for past crimes. Decades of conflict, not only between Sudan in the north and what is now South Sudan but also between different armed groups in the south, have left deep scars among the population.

"No one in South Sudan has ever been held accountable for anything," said David Deng, director of the South Sudan Law Society, at a Rift Valley Institute forum in Nairobi. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – signed in 2005 by Khartoum and southern rebels, paving the way for South Sudan’s independence – did nothing to hold the instigators of violence culpable, Deng said. "We see in the CPA itself a vague reference to national reconciliation but nothing in terms of real accountability for past human rights violations."

Past military rebellions were granted amnesty and rewarded with reintegration deals to maintain peace, supported by President Kiir. "His one real main asset is his ability to bring these so-called spoilers into the fold,” said Deng. “We need to revisit this. If this situation has taught us anything, it's that what is in our short-term interest doesn't always work in our interest in the long-term.”

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