South Sudan Deputy Information minister denied a UN report that the war-torn country risks spiraling into genocide due to targeted killings along ethnic lines.
Deputy Minister of Information Paul Akol Kordit said that the report by the UN Secretary General Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng was alarming but overstated the situation.
“I don’t think this country can slide into genocide. This country has experience of conflict and emerging from it stronger. I have seen the report but the statement was overstated,” Kordit said.
“What people of South Sudan need are not messages that spread fear but those that give them hope,” he added.
Dieng concluded his fact-finding mission in South Sudan on Friday. He observed that the country risked falling into genocide if the government did not intervene to nip it in the bud.
“Inflammatory rhetoric, stereotyping and name calling have been accompanied by targeted killings and rape of members of particular ethnic groups,” Dieng said.
He called for an end to targeted killings that have caused tension between the Equatoria region’s Bari-speaking tribes and Dinka, the largest ethnic group in South Sudan.
Civil war broke out in December 2013 between government troops led by President Salva Kiir and forces loyal to sacked First Vice President Riek Machar. Tens of thousands have died and more than two million have been displaced ever since.
A peace deal signed between the rival leaders under UN pressure last year led to the formation of a unity government in April, but was shattered by renewed fighting that erupted in early July.
Machar, who had returned to his old post as Kiir’s deputy in the unity government, was sacked again and fled the country after the July fighting. He is now in residence in South Africa and has asked his supporters to launch a rebellion.
Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands forced out of their homes since July.
“Those killing civilians on the highways and targeting people on ethnic basis are criminals and the government is doing anything to deal with them. And for now we have not heard of more killings,” Kordit said.
He also said that some SPLA-IO (Machar-led opposition party) officers had started to report to cantonment areas, which are established by the government, to avoid clashes.