UN votes unanimously for more peacekeepers for South Sudan amid reports of mass graves, extrajudicial killings and rapes

Reports have moved the UN to action as tensions between ethnic Dinka and Nuer in the world’s newest nation escalate

Juba

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to nearly double the number of peacekeepers in South Sudan to more than 14,000 and urged swift action to end a violent political and ethnic conflict that threatens to become a full-blown civil war.

Amid reports of mass graves, extrajudicial killings and rapes, tens of thousands of civilians have sought refuge in UN base camps that in some cases were described as under siege.

There appeared to be no sign of a rapprochement today between the central players in the crisis: President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and the former vice-president, Riek Machar, who is a Nuer, as the ethnic killings threaten the world’s newest nation.

“There are definitely ethnic undertones to what is happening,” said Toby Lanzer, the Deputy Special Representative to the UN Mission in South Sudan. “But this is a political struggle within the ruling party. It’s actually by addressing this that we are going to be able to get things under control.”

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, Tedros Adhanom, said leaders of six East African countries will travel to South Sudan today to try to advance peace talks and end 10 days of violence.

The crisis was sparked by fighting between Dinka and Nuer soldiers. President Kiir then accused Mr Machar of trying to orchestrate a coup. Mr Machar had denied the charge, but is leading a rebellion that has seized vital parts of South Sudan, including Bentiu, the capital of the oil-rich Unity State.

The fighting has spread to five of the country’s 10 states, including Upper Nile, another oil-producing region.

The Security Council action followed a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, that at least one mass grave has been discovered in Bentiu, with “reportedly at least two other mass graves”, near Juba, the capital and South Sudan’s largest city.

Mr Lanzer told the BBC in an interview that the dead were numbered in the “thousands”. One peacekeeper has been killed, and several have been wounded.

The UN resolution authorises the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s request to temporarily transfer – with the permission of their governments – troops assigned to other peacekeeping missions in Africa, including in Sudan, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Congo. He said he has reached out to the African Union and countries such as Ethiopia and Rwanda, traditional suppliers of peacekeeping troops in Africa, and appealed to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Nuer soldiers and gangs have reportedly targeted Dinka in Bentiu, Bor and Juba, killing many and forcing tens of thousands to seek refuge in UN compounds.

Meanwhile, in interviews over two days this week, more than two dozen displaced Nuer civilians described a campaign of targeted killings, rapes and beatings by Dinka soldiers. The violence has included the alleged killing of scores of young Nuer in a secret detention facility and their bodies buried in four shallow graves.

Witnesses said Nuer men have been rounded up across Juba and many thrown in prisons for days, beaten with rifle butts or killed on the spot. Some had their hands tied up with wire, their arms and heads slashed with machetes, witnesses said. Dinka soldiers reportedly also set fire to and looted Nuer houses. Three-year-old Nyajing Gadet was among the victims.

Dinka government soldiers arrived in her Juba neighbourhood last week to hunt down Nuer, house by house, her mother recalled. Dinka neighbors pointed the soldiers to the family’s home.

Soldiers fired through the walls and windows. A bullet grazed Nyajing’s head, spilling blood down her tiny face, as her father held her in his arms. “They didn’t care if they killed a child,” said her mother, Elizabeth Nakiru, cradling Nyajing, who had a thick white bandage wrapped around her head. Both were inside a crowded tent in a UN compound where they had sought shelter, along with other Nuer. “They were firing on anyone who was Nuer.”

The South Sudanese military acknowledged on Tuesday that abuses against Nuer civilians had taken place and ordered a probe of the army – still referred to as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA – as well as police and security units involved in the operations last week.

“The SPLA we cannot say is perfect. There might be people there who are not properly oriented as national soldiers,” said Col Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the military. “For us to build a nation, we have to carry out a serious investigation. This is bad behaviour, and it will create a big hole in the body of the military.”

Chiok Ring, 32, was stopped by Dinka soldiers in another part of the city. He and four other Nuer men, including his brother, were in his car, Mr Ring recalled. They were easy to spot: all had six parallel horizontal lines etched across their forehead with a razor, part of the Nuer initiation into adulthood.

One soldier barked: “You are Nuer. Come out.”

“Then, they started to shoot at us,” Mr Ring said. “My brother and my three friends were killed. I ran to a church and hid. There were women and children there, so the soldiers did not enter.”

Mr Ring made his way to the main UN base in Juba, joining an estimated 20,000 people who live in a sea of crowded tents, many made from blankets and fixed to muddy ground. They sleep on dirty mattresses and dry the few clothes they possess on barbed wire. They depend on aid workers for food and water. The stench of mud and sewage wafts through the sanctuary, which aid workers say has become a breeding zone for malaria and other illnesses.

Most of the ethnic attacks have targeted Nuer men of fighting age, although in some cases soldiers appeared to fire randomly into houses occupied by Nuer and assault Nuer women and children. Upon arriving at the UN compound in Juba last week, victims told aid workers that sexual assaults had occurred.

Nyajing’s mother, Nakiru, tried to return home last week. She had left some flour in their house, and she wanted to retrieve it to feed her children. But when she arrived, she found her Dinka neighbours had seized her house, she said. When she tried to break in, two Dinka soldiers spotted her and beat her. Like many of her fellow Nuer, she fears leaving the UN compound.

“Going back home will be like committing suicide,”  she said.

© The Washington Post

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
people
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices