Rape and Cannibalism Among Horrors of South Sudan War, African Union Says


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Displaced people bathed and drank at Kok Island, South Sudan, where about 900 people have fled from fighting. According to an African Union investigation, both South Sudan’s government and rebels have targeted civilians in the civil war.

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Jason Patinkin/Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — Gang rape, the massacre of civilians and even instances of forcing captives to jump into fires and eat human flesh are among a long list of atrocities committed during South Sudan’s continuing civil war, according to a long-awaited report by the African Union.

The report, published late Tuesday but not widely available in eastern Africa until Wednesday, was written more than a year ago but was held back because African Union officials feared that it could complicate the on-again, off-again peace efforts for South Sudan, a fragile, destitute nation that exploded into ethnically driven violence two years after winning independence in 2011.

According to the African Union investigation, the government of President Salva Kiir, and rebels led by Riek Machar, the vice president he fired in the summer of 2013, both targeted civilians.

“The stories and reports of the human toll of the violence and brutality have been heart-wrenching,” the report said. “People being burned in places of worship and hospitals; mass burials; women of all ages raped, both elderly and young. Women described how they were brutally gang-raped and left unconscious and bleeding. People were not simply shot, they were subjected, for instance, to beatings before being compelled to jump into a lit fire.”

Investigators also “heard of some captured people being forced to eat human flesh or forced to drink human blood,” the report continued. “All these accounts evoke the memories of some of the worst episodes of earlier human rights violations on the continent, including in South Sudan itself.”

Many of these allegations surfaced at the time of intense fighting in late 2013 and early 2014, but were denied by rebel and government military commanders.

A South Sudan presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, told Reuters that the government had “acknowledged that some individuals have taken the law into their own hands.” He said the cabinet would meet on Friday and issue a more specific response to the report. “We will not allow impunity,” he added.

The conflict started after Mr. Kiir fired Mr. Machar. The two belong to rival ethnic groups that have battled in the past, and their political split quickly reopened deep ethnic fault lines.

Since then, thousands of people have died, and countless numbers have been raped and maimed. Just last week, United Nations agencies warned of an impending famine in areas that continue to be racked by conflict. Some people fleeing have survived by hiding in swamps and eating water lilies.

International mediators have tried to stem the violence, pushing the government and rebels to sign several cease-fire agreements and peace plans. So far, none have lasted.



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