South Sudan leaders have no excuse for inaction – Dieng
30 April 2014 - It is too early to determine whether recent violence in South Sudan amounted to genocide, but risk factors like hate speech and targeted killings based on ethnicity are causes for concern, a senior UN official said in Juba today.
“These are elements which make us very concerned,” said Under Secretary-General and UN Special Envoy for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng. “We don’t want the trajectory of this conflict to plunge this country into serious violence that may completely spiral out of control… where a power struggle would end with an ethnic conflict.”
The Under Secretary-General explained that only a court, and not his office, could decide whether what has happened in South Sudan could be considered genocide or not. His role is to make efforts to prevent it by monitoring and addressing risk elements, he added.
“South Sudan should not be led down this slippery slope,” Mr. Dieng said, calling on the country’s leaders and people, as well as the regional and international community, to “uphold our collective responsibility to protect the populations of South Sudan from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.
Mr. Dieng noted that it is vital to ensure that those responsible for crimes committed are held accountable, adding that both President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar have affirmed their will to take immediate measures to end violence and to investigate human rights violations.
“I hope they will now take concrete steps to act on their commitments,” he said. “It is one thing to make proclamations and another to take action. There is no excuse for inaction.”
Addressing journalists at the same media briefing, the top UN human rights official Navi Pillay said she was pleased with one of the statements that Dr. Machar made during her meeting with him.
“He said, ‘Murderers cannot be protected; it stains our cause’. … Our point is, make it public and show that these are credible investigations,” she said. “Failing to hold people accountable for their actions simply breeds more discontent, more violence, as people decide that their only option is to revenge the crimes themselves.”
Ms. Pillay said a final report from the UNMISS Human Rights Division, which will soon be submitted to the UNMISS Special Representative for the Secretary General, Hilde F. Johnson, would give facts to determine what crimes have been committed.
“Mr. Dieng and I have warned those same leaders that current and future investigations will inevitably examine the extent to which political and military leaders either knew, should have known or failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by themselves or by subordinates under their effective authority and control,” she said.