The United Nations today called on South Sudan to develop a comprehensive plan for curbing violence in Jonglei state, as it released the findings of an investigation into inter-communal attacks that claimed hundreds of lives there in 2011 and early 2012.
The report, compiled by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), documents crimes and human rights violations that took place during the cycle of attacks between the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups.
It states that in December 2011, an estimated 6,000-8,000 armed youth, militarily organized and primarily from the Lou Nuer group, mobilized in Jonglei and launched a series of systematic attacks over 12 days on areas inhabited by the Murle group.
From 27 December, smaller groups of armed Murle youth began launching retaliatory attacks on Lou Nuer and Bor Dinka areas which lasted until 4 February. These incidents were the latest in a cycle of retaliatory attacks which had escalated in the course of 2011.
"The failure of the Government (GRSS) to protect civilians from violence, investigate incidents and hold perpetrators accountable is believed to have contributed to this cycle of attacks which have resulted in increasing numbers of casualties and been marked by acts of deliberate cruelty," says the report.
The violence led to nearly 900 deaths, incidents of abductions of women and children, the destruction of homes and the displacement of thousands of civilians.
"To end the cycle of violence in Jonglei for good, we need to understand what happened and make sure that the perpetrators are held accountable. This needs to be part of a comprehensive peace process in the state," the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS, Hilde F. Johnson, said in a news release.
The report provides nine recommendations to avert future major outbreaks of violence, including the urgent activation of the Government's Investigation Committee into the Jonglei State Crisis. It also calls for the prosecution of all those responsible for the violence - which will require urgent Government action to strengthen all aspects of the country's justice system.
"It is vital that the facts are known, and that the perpetrators and instigators on all sides are held to account," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Right, Navi Pillay, who visited Jonglei state in May and met with some victims and witnesses of the violence there.
"Every effort must be made to implement the report's recommendations as they could make a very important contribution to improving respect for human rights and breaking the cycle of violence in Jonglei," she added in a news release.
UNMISS noted that it carried out a series of extensive air and ground patrols that provided timely intelligence on the mobilization of armed youths and the destruction they inflicted on unarmed civilian populations in Jonglei.
It also deployed troops alongside units of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which helped save many lives in Pibor County in December 2011 and early January of this year. At the same time, it points out that the delays in the SPLA-deployments, despite early warning by UNMISS, prevented adequate protection of civilians.
In addition, it identifies constraints that prevented UNMISS from fulfilling more effectively its mandated responsibility to protect civilians under the imminent threat of physical violence.