Observers are fearing the worst for South Sudan, which may very well become the next Rwanda. Much like the ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 people by warring tribal factions the Hutus and Tutsi’s, there is a growing “ethnic tone” attributed to the political violence in South Sudan, where mass graves and indiscriminate killings have marred the young country’s delicate future.
On Tuesday the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to bring in an additional 5,500 troops on top of the 6,800 currently stationed to help protect civilians vulnerable to the roving gangs and party faction massacres. Despite a sizeable increase in forces, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon fears that they will not be able to protect every civilian in South Sudan from rivaling party violence.
“The parties are responsible for ending the conflict,” Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a less than optimistic statement.
With the U.N. struggling to put a damper on South Sudan’s violence, U.S. Marines have been working to evacuate Americans living in South Sudan after U.N. officials declared that there had been a severe “breakdown in respect for the most basic rights of people”.
Two mass graves had been discovered earlier this week, one grave in Bentiu containing 14 bodies, and one adjacent to a riverbank containing another 20 bodies. Officials say other reported graves were found in Juba, and more bodies may have been burned.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay weighed in on the human rights abuses, sayng that South Sudan is experiencing a “serious and growing” problem, one which the U.N. can hardly tackle alone.
This comes after only a brief two year existence for South Sudan, which separated from the north after loyalists to Sudan’s rejected vice president, Riek Machar, attempted a coup against President Salva Kiir. Forces loyal to Machar and Machar himself deny there was ever such an attempt.
Sudan’s oil-rich and south contained a majority of the separitists, and after succeeding in 2011, the south has experienced “sporadic violence”.
The growing numbers of casualties and blatant disregards for human life bring the “sporadic violence” to a new level of ethnic conflict says officials.
In a new wave of fighting, Sudanese forces had taken control of the South Sudan city of Bor until Tuesday, when after a six-hour fight, the military had retaken control of the city.
In a statement, South Sudan’s President urged for a peaceful reconciliation with the north, and a means to end the fighting between the once united nation.
Trying to escape the escalating violence, thousands have fled to U.N. supported shelters, where rations and supplies are running low. Some come with varying afflictions, ranging from gunshot wounds to infectious diseases. Officials say they are doing all they can to manage the influx of injured civilians.
The U.N. says despite the tough road ahead, it will continue it’s efforts to protect South Sudan’s people from harm.
“The U.N. stood with you on your road to independence,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “We will stay with you now… The U.N. will stay with you.”
Until then U.N. officials are doing all they can to make sure South Sudan doesn’t become the next Rwanda.