Category Archives: Africa – International

Uganda – LRA commander Okello captured in Central African Republic

VoA/allAfrica

Uganda: LRA Commander Captured in Central African Republic

 

Photo: Voxcom/IRIN

Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers (file photo).

Uganda’s military says troops have captured a commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army [LRA] and freed 10 people who were held captive by the rebel group.

A military spokesman said African troops hunting the LRA seized Charles Okello in the Central African Republic.

The spokesman said most of those rescued were children.

The LRA is notorious for attacking and looting villages, and also for its forced recruitment of child soldiers.

The rebel group formed in the mid-1980′s and battled the Ugandan government for 20 years before fleeing to nearby areas.

Ugandan troops have been leading a U.S.-backed African Union mission to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony and other LRA figures.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Authorities believe he is hiding in remote parts of the C.A.R.

Nigeria – Niger group claims Boko Haram link

Daily Trust

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 05:01Written by Musa Abdullahi Krishi & Ronald MutumHits: 8381

Major-General Chris Olukolade

. Military says aware of cross-border activity

 

An insurgency group operating in Niger Republic has claimed having links with Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants from whom it receives “huge” payments for joint operations.
The Niger insurgents told the BBC Hausa radio yesterday that they are based in parts of Diffa in the south-eastern part of that country, and that they routinely offer help to Boko Haram in its campaign of violence in Nigeria.
Boko Haram pays them “huge sums” in return, they said.
Nigerian authorities have said in the past that the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lid Da’awati Wal Jihad does receive support from foreign terror groups, but this is the first time any such organisation is publicly claiming working with the sect.
The Niger group, whose name was not given, comprises mostly youths of between the ages of 17 and 23, who wear singlets, jeans and chains round their necks, according to the report.
The young men are secondary school students, who conduct armed robberies especially during market days in Diffa, which is on the border with Nigeria. They showed the BBC correspondent some machetes, knives and other local weapons which they use in their robbery operations. But they said they do not use guns.
“What we do is to sit and drink tea, bear, drugs and marijuana before we go for operations and other insurgent activities,” one of them said.
“As a result of our activities, our parents and other people in our areas don’t like us. We have relationship with Boko Haram. Five of us went, but two of them lost their lives (in Nigeria) and three are alive.
“Even this one you’re seeing with us, it’s not up to a week that he returned. It’s all about money. The Boko Haram people have given us huge sums of money in the past, part of which we used in buying these chairs, clothes and other things you’re seeing here.”
Another young man said: “All the things we do are because we’re jobless; we’re doing this to get money.”
They also claimed that they are now giving Boko Haram members information about Diffa and its surroundings.
Governor of the state of Diffa, Mr. Yakubu Sumana Gawo, told the BBC that security personnel are working to ensure adequate security in the state, but that the government was not aware of the existence of any group of insurgents.
“We don’t know about these groups, since they have not launched any attack yet. We won’t allow any insurgent group to operate here. But we’re calling on the people to give us information about any terrorist group to help us and the country. God willing, security agents will go after such groups,” he said.
However, some citizens of Diffa who did not want to be named, confirmed the existence of insurgents.
When contacted yesterday, the Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, told Daily Trust: “We know they have been going across the border and are involved in terrorist activities in Nigeria.”
He added that so many of them have been killed by security forces carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the North-East.
“This only goes to confirm what we have been saying about cross-border involvement,” Major-General Olukolade said.
In his reaction, Special Duties Minister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, who is also the chairman of the presidential committee on dialogue with Boko Haram, told the BBC he was not aware of the Niger Republic group’s support for Nigerian insurgents.
“I don’t have that information, but I won’t be surprised if that is the case, because like I said, there are people whose major concern is to cause trouble so that they can fulfill their desires,” he said.
“Even if there are such groups, God will take control over them. Nigeria is a country that is above any terrorist or trouble maker. We are a country that believes in God, and we know He won’t forsake us,” he added.
On reported Boko Haram’s links with Somalia’s Al-Shabab group, Turaki said: “As a minister and head of the presidential committee on dialogue with the group, I am not aware of this. But as I know, some terrorist groups around the world are trying to cause trouble in different countries; I won’t be surprised if there is any joint effort among them.
“Again, I can’t think a newspaper will come out with such information without having any good reason. But I don’t have any information of any relationship between them (Boko Haram) and Al-Shabab.”
Speaking on Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shakau’s claims that the sect is now in Abuja, Turaki said the sect’s members are like any other human being who could reside in any part of the country without government knowledge.
“It’s not surprising, because what we’ve been telling people all the time is that the Boko Haram members are like every other person. The way they operate, they are different from other religious groups since you can’t just see someone with kaftan and say they’re the ones. They have different ways of dressing, so I won’t be surprised if they’re in Abuja just the way they’re in other places,” he said.
Turaki also said his committee’s dialogue with the Boko Haram sect has been fruitful, though he would not make public their demands as the dialogue is ongoing.
“Our dialogue with them is ongoing. We have discussed with some of their members, and even the committee before this one did same. But this committee has discussed with many of them, and so far so good, by God’s grace and with prayers from Nigerians, we shall overcome all these challenges,” Turaki said. Daily Trust

China urges renewed peace effort in South Sudan

Reuters

BEIJING Wed Apr 23, 2014

Civilians flee from renewed attacks in Bentiu, Unity state of South Sudan April 20, 2014. REUTERS/Emre Rende

Civilians flee from renewed attacks in Bentiu, Unity state of South Sudan April 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Emre Rende

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Wednesday urged renewed peace efforts in South Sudan after the United Nations said rebels slaughtered hundreds of civilians when they seized the South Sudan oil hub of Bentiu.

“We strongly condemn this and urge all sides in South Sudan, including the opposition and the authorities, to keep pushing political dialogue to resolve the relevant issues and achieve reconciliation, peace and development at the earliest date,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a daily briefing.

China has played an unusually active diplomatic role in South Sudan and is the biggest investor in its oil industry.

Bentiu is capital of South Sudan’s oil-producing Unity state. Oil firms in South Sudan, a country roughly the size of France, include China National Petroleum Corp, India’s ONGC Videsh and Malaysia’s Petronas.

“China has energy interests in South Sudan, so we hope even more that this country can maintain peace and stability,” Qin added.

“We also ask that the South Sudanese authorities provide protection to China’s reasonable rights in South Sudan and the safety of Chinese nationals,” he said.

China’s special envoy to Africa, Zhong Jianhua, told Reuters in February that China’s efforts to help resolve the conflict in South Sudan marked a “new chapter” in its foreign policy that would seek to engage more in Africa’s security.

The White House on Tuesday called the massacre an abomination and urged an end to the cycle of violence there.

The United Nations said rebels hunted down men, women and children who had sought refuge in a hospital, mosque and Catholic church.

Rebel troops overran Bentiu last week. Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang denied responsibility for the slaughter, blaming government forces for the killings.

More than 1 million people have fled from their homes since December when fighting erupted in the world’s youngest country between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers loyal to his sacked vice president, Riek Machar. Reuters

 

Rwanda – Kagame will not rule out trying for a third term

Reuters

Rwandan president says he is not ready to rule out third term

BOSTON Wed Apr 23, 2014

Rwanda President Paul Kagame attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Rwanda President Paul Kagame attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ruben Sprich

BOSTON (Reuters) – Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Tuesday it was too early to say whether he will seek a third term as head of the east African state, adding “whatever will happen, we’ll have an explanation.”

Articles in pro-government newspapers in recent years have raised the prospect of him staying on after his mandate expires in 2017, a move that would anger his critics and require a change to the constitution.

“I have been asked when or whether I am going to leave office right from the time when I started. It is as if I am here just to leave. I’m here to do business on behalf of Rwandans,” Kagame told students and faculty after a speech at Tufts University near Boston.

“I don’t know what else I can give you on that, but let’s wait and see what happens as we go. Whatever will happen, we’ll have an explanation.”

He was responding to a student’s question about how he imagined his political role in Rwanda after his term ends.

Kagame was touring universities around Boston to speak about the country’s recovery from its 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 people were killed. Kagame believes European powers played a role in triggering the conflict and that the international community failed to intervene to stop it.

“What we learned is that people must be responsible for their own fate. If you wait for outsiders you will just perish,” Kagame, rail thin and wearing a sharp suit and dark-framed eyeglasses, told the audience.

He accused the “international community” of destabilizing neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo by allowing people who committed the Rwandan genocide to later escape into Congo’s eastern hills and giving them guns.

Millions have died in eastern Congo, home to myriad rebel groups, since the end of Rwanda’s genocide.

Kagame came to power in 2000 after leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front to overthrow the 1994 government. He won democratic elections in 2003 and 2010. The constitution currently limits presidents to two seven-year terms. Kagame has previously brushed off speculation he could seek to stay on for another term.

Critics accuse Kagame of being authoritarian and trampling on media and political freedoms. South Africa expelled three Rwandan envoys last month and accused them of being linked to attacks on Kagame’s dissidents in the country. Kigali has denied the accusations.

But Kagame has also won international praise for progress in his bid to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. Rwanda was ranked 2nd in sub-Saharan Africa on the World Bank’s annual Doing Business report for 2014, overtaking economic heavyweight South Africa, after a series of economic reforms.  Reuters

 

South Africa – 40 rhino horns stolen from parks department safe

As the Hawks have been called in and tehy’ve said whoever stole the horn knew exactly where it was kept, it rather smacks of an inside job. Wouldn’t be first time parks staff have been involved. KS

 

BBC

Rhino horn stolen from South African park safe

A rhino in Kruger National Park in Skukuza, South Africa, February 2013 A rhino in Kruger National Park in Skukuza, South Africa, last year

Robbers in South Africa have stolen rhino horn from a provincial parks agency, in what may be the country’s biggest such theft to date.

They cut through steel safes at the Mpumalanga tourism and parks agency (MTPA) in Nelspruit, taking up to 40 horns, police and local media say.

South Africa is home to most of the world’s rhino population.

Record numbers are being poached and killed in the country for their horn, which is prized in east Asia.

The thieves struck on Sunday night in the north-eastern city, South Africa’s Lowvelder newspaper reports.

“The culprit[s] cut open two steel safes fitted with double locks,” a source described as a senior MTPA official told the paper.

The thieves “knew where they were going and what they were going to do”, Paul Ramaloko, a spokesman for a police anti-corruption unit known as the Hawks, was quoted by Bloomberg news agency as saying.

“This is the biggest theft of rhino horn we have ever experienced.”

No arrests have been made, the agency added.

Lucrative trade

BBC map

Rhino horn sold illegally can fetch as much as $95,000 (£56,500) per kilo (2.2lb) – more than gold, Bloomberg notes.

Large syndicates are involved in a multi-billion dollar trade worldwide, exporting the horns to both Asia and the Middle East.

Poachers killed 1,004 rhinos in South Africa last year, the authorities say.

South Africa’s black rhino population has doubled over the past two decades from a low point of 2,480 but its numbers are still a fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed in the early part of the 20th Century, the WWF says on its website.

Southern white rhinos, once thought to be extinct, now thrive in protected sanctuaries and are classified as Near Threatened, it adds.

However, a northern white rhino subspecies is believed to be extinct in the wild and only a few captive individuals remain in a sanctuary in Kenya, the WWF says. BBC

DR Congo – absence of policing leading to mob violence in Ituri

IRIN

Mob violence rife in DRC’s Ituri District

BUNIA, 17 April 2014 (IRIN) – The near absence of any effective policing in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) district of Ituri, Orientale Province, is fuelling mob violence which has seen about 100 people killed and 1,500 houses torched in the past year, according to local civil society groups.

People are killed in Ituri after petty disputes or on mere suspicion of practising sorcery, Samuel Jakwong’a, a spokesperson of civil society groups in Mahagi Territory, told IRIN. Revenge attacks are also common, leading to a vicious circle of violence where innocent victims, especially women and children, are affected, according to local human rights NGO LIPADHO.

“When we find a corpse close to a village, there will be revenge [attacks] from the dead person’s family. This brings about a cycle of violence with houses being burnt down in the suspect’s village,” explained Jakwong’a.

Personal disagreements in Mahagi easily degenerate into inter-communal clashes, said Joachim Unegi, a human rights activist.

He told IRIN of a case in February where a row between a headmaster and one of his students in Angal Chiefdom (the most populous of eight chiefdoms in Mahagi Territory) had led to clashes between the two families, leading to the burning down of dozens of houses. The insecurity has left families homeless and vulnerable.

Houses torched

Jacqueline Uyera, 60, is a farmer and a petty trader. Her house was burnt down, alongside 71 others, in a February attack in the village of Mungere, 180km south of Ituri’s main town of Bunia, after a corpse was discovered there. Children were not spared in the attack.

“At the time [of the attack], my husband and I had gone mourning. Unfortunately, a large portion of my money and other property was burnt down in the house – clothes, blankets, maize, beans, cassava, everything. Even if you were present you would not have saved anything. They [the attackers] were very many, in three different groups.

Uyera, whose goats and pigs were also looted, told IRIN that her family, including the orphans she supports, are now going hungry.

“We have done nothing wrong, besides we are not of their ethnicity. We are Gweno and they [the attackers] are Panduru. They should restrict themselves to their place,” she said, adding that the police had not come to their rescue, only showing up the next day to find that people had fled the village.

Since then, she added, some residents had returned to rebuild their houses. Uyera’s family, however, is still seeking refuge among the banana plants in the field. She urged the Congolese government to provide shelter and education materials for the children to enable them to resume schooling.

Intoxicated police

An inadequate police presence and a weak justice system are part of the problem, according to public officials in Mahagi.

“You will find one police officer for two villages, without equipment or a means of travel. They are also high on cannabis and alcohol. Or you will find five police officers for a whole chiefdom,” said Joel Batena, the president of the Mahagi Court.

Those who are arrested, prosecuted and detained end up at the central prison which is very old and in a state of disrepair. It is also guarded by just two police officers, making prisoner escapes easy. Prisoners there are not fed, added Batena.

Some detained perpetrators of mob violence also escape or are released on bail.

“These criminals become very dangerous to the population,” said Jean Bosco Ngamubieme, the Mahagi Territory administrator, adding that they sometimes end up being killed in repeat mob attacks due to the danger they are seen as posing.

EU aid to stem impunity

According to the head of police training in the DRC, Gen Juvenal Bideko, some 500 new police officers are to be deployed to Orientale Province. “Admittedly, this is far from satisfactory. We are also looking to involve other sponsors in the training and equipping of another 1,000 police officers,” he said.

Through its justice support programme in eastern DRC, the European Union has provided 1.2 million euros (US$1.65 million) towards supporting judicial infrastructure in the provinces of North and South Kivu as well as in the district of Ituri. The funds are designed to help build the capacity of judicial personnel, improve access to justice for all litigants especially the poor, improve prison conditions and boost the fight against impunity for serious crimes, Hubert Nzakumuena, the head of the programme, told judicial staff in Bunia recently.

Head of the Angal chiefdom Serzh Jalaure urged the DRC government to set up local courts to bring formal justice closer to the people. He also proposed that the government allow local arbitration mechanisms to deal with petty crime. Angal is the worst affected of the eight chiefdoms in Mahagi Territory by acts of mob violence.

“The people are forced, even for small problems, to go to the magistrate’s court which is far away from here, and cases often drag on. Consequently, the people prefer to resolve their problems themselves,” said Jalaure.  IRIN

South Sudan – rebels fighting army in Upper Nile and Jonglei

BBC

South Sudan rebels in ‘multiple attacks’

Member of the "white army" which make up some of the rebel forces loyal to Riek Machar in South Sudan - Upper Nile State, 14 April 2014 There has been recent fighting in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states

Rebels in South Sudan are involved in fierce fighting with the army in several areas of the country, the military spokesman has told the BBC.

There is ongoing fighting in the north-east of Upper Nile State and the east of Jonglei State, Philip Aguer said.

Earlier, the rebels denied a UN report that they killed hundreds of civilians after taking control last week of the oil hub, Bentiu, in Unity State.

A ceasefire deal in January has failed to halt the violence.

More than a million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013.

Philip Aguer in Juba, South Sudan - January 2014

There is no war where you bombard residential areas indiscriminately at night”  Philip Aguer South Sudan’s army spokesman

The conflict pits President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, from the Nuer community.

‘Temporary loss’

Mr Aguer said that the army had also been forced to withdraw from Mayom in Unity State in order to reorganise its forces following the loss of Bentiu.

“The victory that’s been achieved by the rebels is temporary, it’s just a matter of time [before] they will be out of Bentiu,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

But he said there were several other fronts on which the rebels were active.

For the last week, the town of Renk in the north-east of Upper Nile State had come under attack from Mr Machar’s forces.

“That should be condemned internationally; there is no war where you bombard residential areas indiscriminately at night… [it has] caused havoc and fear.”

An army soldier on patrol in Malakal, South Sudan, in January 2014 More than one million have fled their homes in the four months since the conflict began
UN soldiers patrol in the UN camp in Malakal, South Sudan - 18 March 2014 Some have left to neighbouring countries many others have sought shelter at UN camps

“I have never seen a movement that have a desire in killing many people as possible as Riek Machar’s force.”

On Tuesday morning, there had also been “heavy fighting” in several places in Duk county in Jonglei which came under rebel attack, the army spokesman said.

But he said the army had repulsed them and was pursing the rebels.

‘Tribal war’

Correspondents say last week’s killings in Bentiu are among the most shocking since the conflict began.

The UN said that civilians were killed along ethnic lines at a mosque, a church and a hospital.

Both Mr Kiir and Mr Machar have prominent supporters from various communities, but there have been numerous reports of rebels killing Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers.

Rebel commander Brig Lul Ruai Koang told the BBC on Tuesday that the rebel soldiers had not killed any civilians in Bentiu.

He suggested that government forces and their allies could have been responsible in order to make the conflict appear as though it was “tribal war”.

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

A ceasefire was signed in January but there has been a recent upsurge in fighting.

Last week, the UN said an attack on one of its bases in the central town of Bor in which at least 58 people were killed could constitute a war crime.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president earlier in 2013, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.

French troops in Central African Republic escort Muslims to safety

Reuters

French troops in Central African Republic escort Muslims to safety

BAMBARI, Central African Republic  (Reuters) – French peacekeepers in Central African Republic escorted a convoy of Muslims away from the threat of violence in the capital on Monday to a town effectively controlled by Muslim rebels.

A Reuters witness said 102 Muslims guarded by 150 French troops, supported by a helicopter patrolling overhead, left the northern suburb of PK-12 on Sunday in trucks for Bambari, about 300 km (190 miles) northeast of the capital.

Almost all Muslims have fled Bangui since the Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power in March 2013, were forced to step aside in January. The United Nations has since reported a “cleansing” of Muslims from the country’s west.

Inter-communal violence has gripped Central African Republic since late 2012 when a battle for power degenerated into violence between Muslims and Christians that have forced about 1 million people from their homes.

Almost 200,000 people have fled the country since December with a further 160,000 are expected to this year.

There was no violence during the journey to Bambari, a town effectively controlled by Seleka in the centre of the country. But the fact that the Muslims went there is a sign of growing de facto partition of Central African Republic.

“I’m going to stay in Bambari. Once the country calms down I’ll go back (to Bangui) but if it doesn’t calm down I’ll remain here,” one girl in the convoy told Reuters.

The convoy passed through a Christian neighbourhood of the capital where anti-Balaka forces that have conducted much of the violence against Muslims are a powerful force.

“We don’t want the Muslims to stay in Bambari … They need to get out and go directly to Chad. That’s what we want,” said an anti-Balaka fighter who identified himself as Paterne.

The United Nations Security Council this month authorised a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission to be deployed in September, recognition that the 6,000 African and 2,000 French peacekeepers already there have failed to stamp their authority on the country.

 

South Sudan – rebels deny massacres and call for federal form of government

Sudan Tribune

South Sudanese rebels call for federal state formation


April 21, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese rebels allied to the former vice president, Riek Machar, have officially launched the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/SPLA) “armed resistance” and called for restructuring of all public sectors in the state of South Sudan to conform to the federal system of governance.

JPEG - 21.5 kb
South Sudan’s former vice-president Riek Machar (AFP/Getty)

The leadership of SPLM/SPLA and representatives of other political parties, faith based groups, civil society organizations, youth and women groups, traditional leaders, church leaders and eminent personalities, met from April 15th-18th, 2014 in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan, in a consultative conference which resolved on various matters in the newly launched armed struggle.

The conference “resolved to establish in South Sudan a democratic, just, transparent and people-driven political system-Federalism,” reads one of its resolutions.

The conference further agreed that a future interim government shall be based on a comprehensive peace agreement which shall address the structuring of the state on the basis of an interim federal constitution.

It also resolved to transform and sensitise the regular forces as well as ensure the transformation of the volunteer fighters into discipline soldiers under the SPLA command and control.

The conference also endorsed the former vice president, Riek Machar, as the chairperson and commander-in-chief of the new movement.

It also declared president Salva Kiir as “an illegitimate leader given his deeds” that have dragged the country into the current political, security and humanitarian crisis, and further called on the international community to do the same.

The rebel movement formed a provisional leadership structure with eight specialised committees, each to be headed by a chairperson. He or she will be deputised by a deputy and secretary, three of whom shall be appointed by the chairperson of the movement from able and competent members of the movement.

Each committee shall comprise of 15 members and assisted by a secretariat.

The conference resolved that such committees shall include peace and national reconciliation committee; political mobilisation committee; foreign affairs committees; justice and human rights committee; finance and resources mobilization committee; information and public relations committee; humanitarian and social services committee; and women and youth empowerment committee.

The conference reiterated the call for withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country, such as the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) that are fighting alongside Salva Kiir’s government.

It also renewed commitment to the peace processes mediated by the regional bloc –IGAD, but warned of intensifying the war into Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions to remove Kiir from power should the government in Juba not talk peace in good faith.

(ST)

BBC

South Sudan rebels deny Bentiu slaughter accusation

Rebel soldier in Bentiu Rebel fighters remain in control of Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State

Rebels in South Sudan have denied a UN report that they killed hundreds of civilians after taking control of the oil hub, Bentiu, last week.

Brig Lul Ruai Koang told the BBC there was a security vacuum after government forces left the town.

The UN said that civilians were killed along ethnic lines at a mosque, a church and a hospital.

More than a million people have been forced from their homes since fighting broke out in December 2013.

The conflict pits President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against his former Vice-President, Riek Machar, from the Nuer community.

Analysis

In a civil war marked by numerous human rights abuses, the reports from Bentiu are among the most shocking.

The rebels are accused of killing Dinkas (President Kiir’s ethnic group), Sudanese (because of the alleged support of Darfuri rebel groups for President Kiir) and Nuers who were not overtly cheering their fellow Nuer rebels.

The victims hid in hospitals and places of worship, but did not find sanctuary there.

Many of the rebels say they took up arms because of the murder of their relatives in Juba at the beginning of this conflict.

Both sides have committed terrible abuses.

However the scale of the killings carried out by rebel troops, including the feared White Army militia, in Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, has turned many people against the rebel leader, Riek Machar.

With the rainy season approaching, and negotiations set to resume in Addis Ababa, there is likely to be more fighting – and very likely more atrocities – in the next few weeks.

Although both men have prominent supporters from various communities, there have been numerous reports of rebels killing Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers.

But correspondents say that the killings in Bentiu are among the most shocking since the conflict began.

‘Piles of bodies’

The UN’s top humanitarian official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that he had seen “piles of [the bodies of] people who had been slaughtered” last week.

He said they all appeared to be civilians.

Non-Nuer South Sudanese and foreign nationals were singled out and killed, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said.

Some 200 civilians were reportedly killed at the town’s Kali-Ballee mosque where they had sought shelter.

At the hospital, Nuer men, women and children, who hid rather than cheer the rebel forces as they entered the town, were also killed, it said.

The statement also said that hate speech had been broadcast on local radio stations, urging men to rape women from certain communities.

Many of those killed were Sudanese traders, especially from Darfur, Mr Lanzer said.

South Sudan analyst James Copnall says they could have been targeted because rebel groups in Darfur are alleged to back President Kiir against the rebels.

But Brig Koang told the BBC’s Newsday programme: “Our forces are not responsible for killing civilians anywhere in Bentiu.”

He suggested that government forces and their allies could have been responsible in order to make the conflict appear as though it was “tribal war”.

Grab from UN video footage of bodies found in Bentiu
Video footage from the UN shows bodies lying in the streets of Bentiu

Upsurge in fighting

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

A ceasefire was signed in January but there has been a recent upsurge in fighting.

Last week, the UN said an attack on one of its bases in the central town of Bor in which at least 58 people were killed could constitute a war crime.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president earlier in 2013, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.  BBC

 

South Sudan – hundreds killed by rebels in Bentiu

BBC

South Sudan conflict: Bentiu ‘ethnic slaughter’ condemned

Government soldiers in Bentiu (Jan 2014) The army was forced out of Bentiu last week

Hundreds of people were killed because of their ethnicity after South Sudan rebels seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week, the UN has said.

They were targeted at a mosque, a church and a hospital, the UN Mission in South Sudan said in a statement.

It added that hate speech was broadcast on local radio stations, saying certain groups should leave the town and urging men to rape women.

The Nuer community are seen as supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar.

President Salva Kiir is a member of the country’s largest group, the Dinka.

Although both men have prominent supporters from various communities, there have been numerous reports of rebels killing ethnic Dinkas and the army targeting Nuers since the conflict broke out in December 2013.

Since then, more than a million people have fled their homes in what was already among the world’s poorest nations.

‘Piles of bodies’

Analysis

In a civil war marked by numerous human rights abuses, the reports from Bentiu are among the most shocking.

The rebels are accused of killing Dinkas (President Kiir’s ethnic group), Sudanese (because of the alleged support of Darfuri rebel groups for President Kiir) and Nuers who were not overtly cheering their fellow Nuer rebels.

The victims hid in hospitals and places of worship, but did not find sanctuary there.

Many of the rebels say they took up arms because of the murder of their relatives in Juba at the beginning of this conflict.

Both sides have committed terrible abuses.

However the scale of the killings carried out by rebel troops, including the feared White Army militia, in Bentiu, Bor and Malakal, has turned many people against the rebel leader, Riek Machar.

With the rainy season approaching, and negotiations set to resume in Addis Ababa, there is likely to be more fighting – and very likely more atrocities – in the next few weeks.

South Sudan analyst James Copnall says that in a civil war marked by numerous human rights abuses, the reports from Bentiu are among the most shocking.

Non-Nuer South Sudanese and foreign nationals were singled out and killed, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said.

Some 200 civilians were reportedly killed at the Kali-Ballee mosque where they had sought shelter.

At the hospital, Nuer men, women and children, who hid rather than cheer the rebel forces as they entered the town, were also killed, it said.

The UN’s top humanitarian official in South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, was in Bentiu on Sunday and Monday.

He told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme that the scenes in Bentiu were “perhaps [the] most shocking set of circumstances” he had ever faced.

He said he saw “piles of [the bodies of] people who had been slaughtered” last week, adding that they all appeared to be civilians.

Many of those killed were Sudanese traders, especially from Darfur, Mr Lanzer said.

Analyst James Copnall says they could have been targeted because rebel groups in Darfur are alleged to back President Kiir against the rebels.

One rebel source said many of those killed in the mosque were actually soldiers who had taken off their uniforms.

Grab from UN video footage of bodies found in Bantiu Video footage from the UN shows bodies lying in the streets of Bantiu

The situation in South Sudan is “in a downward spiral”, Mr Lanzer said, describing the stakes as “very, very high”.

There are now more than 22,000 people seeking refuge at the UN peacekeeping base over the border in Sudan, he said, including families from the majority community in the state.

“When I asked them why [they were seeking refuge] they said: ‘When the violence has such a cycle of revenge you can’t tell what will come next’,” Mr Lanzer said.

He added that the UN base was not built for such large numbers, and that there was currently only one litre of drinking water for each of the 22,000 civilians in the base, and one latrine for every 350 people.

Upsurge in fighting

Bentiu, capital of the oil-rich Unity State, has changed hands several times during the conflict.

Control of the oilfields is crucial because South Sudan gets about 90% of its revenue from oil.

A ceasefire was signed in January but there has been a recent upsurge in fighting.

Last week, the UN said an attack on one of its bases in the central town of Bor in which at least 58 people were killed could constitute a war crime.

Fighting broke out last year after Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr Machar, who was sacked as vice-president last year, denied the charges but launched a rebellion.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

Map of South Sudan states affected by conflict Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.