The Catholic bishops of South Sudan have condemned as immoral and senseless a complex war in their country, which has proven far bloodier than that of the Islamic State in Syria.
The war in Africa’s newest nation has unfolded over the last three years. It has taken a heavy toll on civilians, killing thousands and displacing millions.
The conflict ignited in December 2013, as a political dispute between President Salva Kiir, a Catholic, and his former deputy, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, a Presbyterian. Within a month it had erupted into an ethnic conflict, with soldiers loyal to Kiir, from the Dinka tribe, and rebels aligned with Machar, from the ethnic Nuer, fighting in towns and villages throughout the country.
Such scenes have continued in South Sudan. In July 2016, opposing sides engaged in fierce gun battles, sparking the latest crisis. In a three-day fight for the control of the capital of Juba, hundreds of women were raped and hundreds more people were killed as government soldiers went door-to-door flushing out members of Machar’s Nuer community.
In the last few months, concerns have emerged that ethnic cleansing is taking place in the country, against a background of massacres, gang rapes, the burning of villages, and widespread starvation.
Adama Dieng, the UN’s special advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, sounded the latest warning on February 9.
“We still see on-going clashes, and the risk that mass atrocities will be committed remain ever present,” Dieng said.
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