“Strong risk of escalating ethnic” violence in South Sudan

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Adama Dieng. UN Photo/Nektarios Markogiannis (file photo)

There is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines in South Sudan, with the potential for genocide, a UN senior official has said.

Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said he did not make the remarks "lightly" and that his concerns were based on what he "saw and heard" during his week-long trip.

Hundreds of civilians died in the violence that took place in the capital city Juba with more than 217 documented incidents of sexual and gender based violence, including rape and gang rapes of minors and women.

Jocelyne Sambira reports.

Genocide is a crime under international law and is defined by the UN as "any act or acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." 

UN Special Adviser Adama Dieng explained to the press in South Sudan's capital city Juba that his visit was in response to growing concern about reports of targeted ethnic violence against multiple ethnic groups. 

During his visit he spoke to civil society groups, religious leaders, community members and senior government officials. 

"I am dismayed to report that what I have seen and heard here has confirmed my concerns that there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential for genocide. I do not say that lightly. In place of the development of a South Sudanese national identity, I have seen that there is extreme polarization between some tribal groups, which has increased in certain places since the outbreak of violence in July this year." 

Mr Dieng also visited a protection of civilian site in the capital Juba and travelled to Yei which is an example of a hot spot where the "spread of ethnic and targeting of civilians that could evolve into genocide. 

He was also voiced concern about the use of media and social media to spread hatred as well as the involvement of the youth in this dangerous trend. 

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations. 

Duration: 1'43''

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