Conflict-related rights abuses occurred in parts of Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Western Equatoria states. Clashes between the SPLA and RMGs, between ethnic communities, and border clashes between the SPLA and the SAF resulted in civilian deaths, kidnappings, torture, rape, and the displacement of 173,170 persons during the year, according to UN statistics. The SPLA regularly practiced “punishment by association,” abusing members of communities with the same ethnic composition as certain RMGs.
UN and NGO representatives raised particular concern about SPLA abuses of Murle civilians beginning in March. According to an NGO eyewitness, SPLA abuses of Murle during the government’s disarmament campaign that month ranged from indiscriminate killings to rape and torture, encouraging Murle youth to flee urban areas and in some cases join RMGs. NGOs stated that the RMG led by David Yau Yau leveraged SPLA abuses in Pibor County to grow from as few as 19 combatants before disarmament began to an estimated 1,500 to 4,000 members by year’s end.
Pervasive ethnic tensions in many parts of the country often resulted in the theft of cattle, which defined power and wealth in many traditional communities. Intercommunal tensions also regularly led to abductions of women and children. Following decades of civil war, cattle raiding became more deadly due to the widespread availability of firearms. During the year ethnically based conflicts that began with cattle raiding led to violent attacks on civilians in Jonglei, Warrap, and Upper Nile states.
Interethnic violence broke out in Wau between December 19-22 after several Dinka were reportedly found killed in a town outside of Wau. Dinka youth looted and burned homes and the market in retaliation. During the violence a reported 4,000 persons sought refuge at the UNMISS compound in Wau. In addition, inter- and intraethnic violence in the Wunlit Triangle (Warrap, Lakes, and Unity states) continued throughout the year through cattle raids between armed youth.
Killings: The SPLA routinely used indiscriminate and disproportionate force in clashes with RMGs and individual communities, resulting in civilian deaths. While many of these incidents took place within the context of what the government referred to as “civilian protection operations” in RMG-affected areas, the SPLA took few, if any, precautions to protect civilians when targeting combatants. RMGs also killed civilians through indiscriminate force, as did communities engaged in cattle raiding or other intercommunal violence.
In August and September SPLA soldiers killed civilians in Jonglei State during clashes with militias ostensibly loyal to David Yau Yau. UNMISS representatives and NGOs reported that throughout the disarmament campaign in Pibor County, SPLA soldiers came under sporadic firearms attack from small groups of combatants and responded with the indiscriminate use of small arms and mortars. The SPLA targeted anyone in the area from which firing may have originated. The SPLA did not release figures for RMG members or civilians killed, but Murle leaders claimed 90 deaths during this two-month period.
In April, in villages along the Nanaam River in Pibor County, NGOs reported that SPLA soldiers killed at least three civilians, including a 10-year-old boy, and incarcerated 55 civilians without food for a week to compel their families to surrender weapons. The SPLA released them when ordered to do so during a visit by the vice president, but incarcerated another 19 civilians after he departed. No additional information on the status of the civilians was available at the end of the year.
Also in April, in Manymar Village along the Lotilla River in Pibor County, SPLA soldiers reportedly killed four civilians, employed simulated drowning on women to compel their husbands to relinquish weapons, raped women whose husbands ostensibly had not complied, and looted property. In Manyabol Payam, SPLA soldiers reportedly burned 200 to 300 homes.
Community relations with the SPLA varied across Pibor County, and the SPLA sometimes took steps to address abuses. In March, in one village along the Nanaam River where SPLA soldiers killed a civilian, the SPLA shared food and water and transported the sick to a local hospital. In early September authorities arrested 31 SPLA soldiers on several different charges, most of which included drunkenness and indiscipline. The commander of the Jonglei disarmament operation assigned five judge advocates as legal advisors to the disarmament operation headquartered in Bor; these judge advocates held more than 20 general courts-martial. Nevertheless, according to NGOs, most abuse cases went unreported and unpunished; civilians had little, if any, legal recourse.
In September an Arab militia crossed the border from Sudan’s Blue Nile State into South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, where it killed six civilians in Renk County and looted farms in the surrounding community. A government official believed the militia received support from the Sudanese government.
In August and September, Murle communities in Jonglei State killed an unknown number of civilians during clashes with the SPLA in response to abuses in the disarmament campaign and during fighting between the SPLA and David Yau Yau’s militia.
In June a government official associated with the Jikany Nuer community and three other persons were killed in Upper Nile State when an RMG attacked their boat as the official returned from a peace conference with leadership of the rival Lou Nuer community. Government media attributed the attack to the forces of Prophet Dak Kueth, a Lou Nuer leader.
In January an estimated 8,000 Lou Nuer youth organized into seven columns attacked Murle civilians in Pibor County in response to Murle cattle raids in 2011, which had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Lou Nuer. According to UNMISS, some Nuer youth wore SPLA uniforms.
Subsequent Murle retaliation against the Lou Nuer resulted in additional deaths in January and February. This combination of incidents represented the most deadly intercommunal violence since 1991. NGOs reported approximately 2,000 Murle deaths; UNMISS reported at least 906 Murle deaths and 370 unaccounted for, in addition to at least 276 Lou Nuer deaths.
Sudanese aerial bombardments and ground incursions following the SPLA invasion of the Heglig and Panthau oil fields in April indiscriminately targeted civilians, killing approximately 14 South Sudanese civilians and wounding 32 around the Sudan-South Sudan border.
Abductions: In May an RMG in Upper Nile State abducted staff of the NGO Tearfund, hijacking their vehicle on the road between Malakal and Kodok. The RMG reportedly used the vehicle and its occupants as shields during a clash with the SPLA, forcing the SPLA to negotiate the civilians’ release.
Intertribal and intercommunal clashes, particularly between the Murle and Lou Nuer communities in Jonglei and Upper Nile states, resulted in abductions of women and children. While the Murle have historically perpetrated the majority of abductions during these clashes, UNMISS reported that both tribes engaged in the practice during the year. Civilians reported an estimated 66 children abducted during the Lou Nuer raid on Pibor County in January, some of whom were shot during the journey from Pibor to Akobo County. UNMISS reported at least 25 Murle abductions of Lou Nuer youth during interethnic violence at the beginning of the year.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government and RMG forces tortured, raped, and otherwise abused civilians in conflict areas during the year.
NGOs reported that since the beginning of the Jonglei disarmament campaign in March, SPLA soldiers tortured and raped civilians in Pibor County to compel them to relinquish weapons. One NGO reported 17 rapes and eight attempted rapes by SPLA personnel in August. NGOs and UNMISS reported that some soldiers employed simulated drowning, which resulted in unconsciousness and sometimes death of the victim.
In March, according to UNMISS, SPLA soldiers beat members of the Sulim ethnic group in Upper Nile State in response to reports that Arab RMGs had crossed the border from Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State into South Sudan.
Few rapes were reported stemming from the intercommunal violence in Jonglei State, but UNMISS believed that victims of abduction by both Murle and Lou Nuer were commonly raped repeatedly while in captivity.
Despite international-led efforts to clear mines, they continued to be a threat to local populations in some areas. According to UN statistics, 10 persons were killed in the country by landmines or other unexploded ordnance during the year.
Child Soldiers: In contrast to previous years, there were no reports of new recruitment of child soldiers by security forces during the year. UNICEF reported that in January the SPLA maintained eight child soldiers in active duty forces, and all were demobilized by the end of the year, continuing the progress that led to the release of approximately 20,000 child soldiers in past years. UNICEF reported 250 confirmed cases of SPLA association with children at the end of year, down from 352 in January.
During the year the SPLA began embedding child protection officers in each company with responsibility for monitoring association with children and advising commanders on how to determine the age of recruits. In August an SPLA child protection officer identified eight child soldiers in his unit in Torit, Eastern Equatoria State and worked with UNMISS representatives to demobilize them. Throughout the country SPLA child protection officers screened out 400 applications by children during the year.
UNMISS reported considerable progress during the year, particularly in reducing the practice of using schools as barracks. While the SPLA occupied 13 schools around the country prior to April, as of September it only occupied one. The SPLA’s chief of child protection reported that due to continued hostilities in Pibor County he could not confirm whether two schools in Pibor County were still free of SPLA influence at year’s end.
The government’s Demobilization, Disarmament, and Reintegration Commission continued to track and demobilize children associated with military organizations, monitoring adherence to the 2008 Child Act, which bans the use of child soldiers. The government conducted public relations campaigns to discourage families from sending their children to SPLA military camps to seek shelter, support, and financial compensation.
In March the government adopted the UN’s Revised Action Plan to improve accountability for recruitment and harboring children within military units, including units granted amnesty as RMGs and brought into the SPLA. While SPLA training emphasized this accountability, international organizations noted that the mechanisms for enforcing accountability were lacking, and there were no courts martial for violations associated with child soldier issues during the year. The SPLA ordered commanders to end all remaining association with children in November, but at year’s end there were no courts martial.
RMGs continued to recruit child soldiers, with some groups relying on youth as their primary fighting force. No estimate of numbers of juveniles in RMGs was available, although as David Yau Yau’s militia continued to grow, the total number of child soldiers may have increased. UNMISS reported that families often sent children to join RMGs in the hope that they would either receive funding from a reintegration program or be recruited by the SPLA. Vetting for child soldiers in the process of reintegrating RMGs into the SPLA improved during the year.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at 2009-2017.state.gov/j/tip.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: Security forces and RMGs occasionally restricted the movement of UN personnel and other humanitarian groups. Following the SAF bombing of Bentiu in April, authorities temporarily closed the road from Bentiu to the Nyiel and Pariang refugee camps, preventing humanitarian access. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) reported at least 127 incidents when the government harassed humanitarian workers or interfered with humanitarian aid delivery during the year.
Conflict often prevented humanitarian access. In September UNMISS cancelled two fact-finding missions to Pibor County in Jonglei State due to clashes between the SPLA and Murle communities.
The SPLM-North (SPLM-N) and other armed factions fighting the government of Sudan were viewed as having direct ties to the SPLA, and often stationed their forces in and near refugee camps in South Sudan near the Sudan border to protect themselves against SAF attacks. NGOs and UN agencies voiced concerns that the SPLM-N presence in refugee camps endangered civilians and charged that SPLM-N retained child soldiers and maintained sporadic recruitment campaigns in the camps, some forcible and directed at children. The refugee leadership, mostly under orders from the SPLM-N, largely resisted efforts by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian agencies to relocate them to camps farther south of the Sudanese border, which some NGOs attributed to SPLM-N forces benefiting from proximity to Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Elements of the LRA may have been involved in looting in Western Equatoria State near the border with the Central African Republic; however, there was a significant decrease in LRA activity in the country compared with 2011. Displacements due to LRA activity in prior years continued to affect communities in Western Equatoria State.
The government’s capacity to assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees was extremely limited. The international community or host families provided most humanitarian aid. Conflict in disputed and undemarcated border areas, RMG activity, lack of infrastructure and road access, heavy rains, and flooding impeded NGOs and international organizations in delivery of assistance to IDPs, returnees, and refugees throughout the country. UN assessments concluded that some areas near the country’s border with Sudan remained unsafe for the return of IDPs.
According to OCHA, 190,473 South Sudanese were newly displaced during the year due to conflict between the SPLA and RMGs and between ethnic communities. Fighting between the SPLA, David Yau Yau’s forces, and Murle communities in Pibor County displaced approximately 7,000 persons from Likuangole town in August and September.
Since 2011 the sporadic fighting between SAF and SPLM-N forces and indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states resulted in the displacement of 174,554 refugees from Sudan to South Sudan by the end of 2012. Of these, 56,582 were in Unity State, 5,881 in Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria states, and 112,091 in Upper Nile State. The government was generally supportive of local governments allocating land to the UNHCR for use in the settlement of Sudanese refugees.
According to the IOM, 155,197 persons of South Sudanese origin or descent returned to the country from Sudan during the year. Returnees sometimes were subjected to abuse by security forces and RMGs and faced confrontation from local communities over land, housing, and other limited resources. In Warrap State land provided to returnees by the state government was contested regularly by residents, preventing successful reintegration into communities and occasionally resulting in violence.
There were credible reports that David Yau Yau’s militia perpetrated serious human rights abuses in South Sudan during the year.