Though under gov’t, South Sudan rebels control most part of Yei: Both abuse civilians equally

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Government and rebel forces in South Sudan’s southern town of Yei have had an equal share in terrorizing, killing and abusing civilians according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Murderous acts of ethnic cleansing, Rapes, torture, arbitrary arrests among others are some of the abuses Human Rights Watch documented in Yei as committed by both sides in the current conflict.

“Fighting between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces and rebels and attacks by both parties on civilians intensified in the country’s southern regions in the wake of clashes in the capital, Juba, in early July 2016,” the group said.
The group in its latest report indicates that “While Yei remains in government hands, rebels appear to control most surrounding areas,” making it a critical center of contention between both forces.
Heavy fighting though spread across most part of the world’s youngest nation has concentrated in the area forcing “hundreds of thousands of civilians” to flee the Greater Equatoria region.

Between October 19 and 26, Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed more than 70 victims and witnesses in Yei, the capital of the newly created Yei River state, in Central Equatoria, about 150 kilometers south of the capital, Juba.

Because of ongoing insecurity, researchers say were unable to reach and assess areas outside of Yei, including Mugwo, Rubeke, and Mitika, on the road to Lasu, places where there have been further serious allegations of abuses. Researchers also met with government officials in Yei and aid agencies in Juba.

Yei residents told researchers that grisly killings of civilians and the fear of arrests and fighting had prompted mass displacement since July.

While the UN refugee agency maintains a presence in the town, the UN peacekeeping mission has only been able to conduct two patrols to Yei since reports of abuses emerged, largely because of government restrictions on UN movements in and out of Juba.

In one reported killing on August 23, unidentified attackers entered a house and killed a mother and her 4-year-old daughter with machetes, then dumped their bodies in a river.  The 4-month-old baby was cut on the neck but survived.

The killings took place in areas controlled by government forces but in this and some other cases, Human Rights Watch was unable to identify if the attackers were government forces or rebel fighters.

Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of arbitrary detentions of civilian men by government troops in military facilities in Yei, adding to an ongoing pattern of arbitrary detentions by the military in Juba, Yambio, and Wau. Credible sources in Yei said the detainees were tortured and held in deplorable conditions.

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