During the conflict between the government and antigovernment forces aligned with former vice president Riek Machar that began on December 15, security forces, RMGs, and civilians committed conflict-related abuses in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, and Lakes states. At year’s end, at least 1,000 individuals had been killed in the conflict and approximately 180,000 displaced.
During the year, conflict-related abuses occurred in parts of Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Western Bahr el Ghazal states. Ethnic tension and cyclical violence in these states contributed to widespread abuses. Clashes between the SPLA and RMGs, interethnic fighting, and other violent incidents unrelated to the conflict that began on December 15 resulted in at least 561 confirmed civilian deaths and the displacement of 131,990 persons during the first nine months of the year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This represented a reduction from the nearly 168,000 individuals displaced and 1,289 confirmed civilian deaths over a similar period in 2012, although the 2013 figures may not include all deaths and displacement in areas inaccessible to humanitarian actors, particularly in parts of Jonglei State and other areas affected by continuing conflict. 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 throughout the year in Jonglei State. Clashes between the SPLA and an RMG, as well as mobilization of armed Lou Nuer youth groups that entered Murle-occupied areas of Jonglei’s Pibor County, may have displaced or otherwise adversely affected an estimated 120,000 civilians across the county during the year. Conflict observers reported that the main cause of displacement was Murle fear that the SPLA targeted civilians as part of its campaign against David Yau Yau’s uprising.
During the year SPLA units stationed in town centers looted and destroyed civilian property as well as prepositioned emergency food supplies in order to resupply garrisons and isolate rebels from resources. By August all six main population centers in Jonglei State (Boma, Gumuruk, Likuangole, Manyabol, Mewun, and Pibor) were either partially or completely abandoned due to poor security and civilian fears of SPLA or RMG abuses, according to OCHA.
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 often began with cattle raiding led to violent attacks on civilians in Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Upper Nile states.
The security situation in the contested Kiir Adem area between Northern Bahr el Ghazal State and Sudan’s East Darfur State remained unstable since sporadic clashes in April 2012. Fighting resulted in displacement of approximately 26,000 persons from north and south of the Kiir River to Northern Bahr el Ghazal State’s Aweil East and Aweil North counties, according to the UN.
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.
Humanitarian actors and international organizations received many reports of SPLA targeting and killing primarily Murle civilians in Jonglei, particularly in Pibor town.
During May, when David Yau Yau’s insurgency threatened Pibor town, the SPLA responded by burning homes, looting NGO and UN assets, and committing other abuses in the area, including killing five women, two men, and one child walking near Gumuruk towards Pibor town and killing a mother, her 14- year-old daughter, and a two-week-old baby outside Pibor town.
Between May 18 and 21, as many as 38 SPLA soldiers were reportedly accused of desertion and summarily executed in front of an SPLA camp in Upper Boma. Reports indicated that all 38 were Murle and targeted based on their ethnicity.
On July 31, a member of an SPLA patrol allegedly attacked a group of nine civilian women and several accompanying children in Lukurnyang village near Pibor town, resulting in two civilian deaths and injury to a six-month-old child. The civilians were reportedly traveling from Kuye village to Pibor town to register for planned food distributions. Authorities arrested the assailant and the patrol’s commanding officer. The incident led the UN World Food Program (WFP) to discontinue food distributions for six days to reassess the security situation.
The WFP suspended food distributions in Pibor town again on August 19 due to escalating tensions and increased reports of SPLA violations, including reports of an SPLA soldier attacking three Murle women, an SPLA soldier sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, and growing fear of additional violence in the Murle community. UN agencies also reported several instances of SPLA harassment or obstruction of humanitarian personnel and an SPLA soldier stealing food from a WFP facility.
According to NGOs, there were at least 16 separate instances where SPLA soldiers killed civilians in Pibor County, two instances where auxiliary police under SPLA command killed civilians in Gumuruk and Manyabol, and four instances where the SPLA unlawfully killed Murle members of security forces.
Community relations with the SPLA varied across Pibor County, and the SPLA occasionally took steps to address abuses. In response to a series of SPLA human rights abuses over several months and calls for accountability for abuses during the 2012 disarmament campaign in Jonglei, President Kiir ordered an investigation. On August 21, the SPLA arrested General James Otong Riek, SPLA commander in Pibor County, on charges of command responsibility for the abuses. His trial was pending in military court in Juba at year’s end. Some observers believed his arrest was related to violations of the SPLA code of conduct rather than human rights abuses.
During the year the SPLA transferred some cases of SPLA abuse of civilian victims to civilian court as required by law, including one case of attempted rape and three murder cases in Jonglei. Nevertheless, according to NGOs, most abuse cases went unreported and unpunished, and civilians had little, if any, legal recourse.
On February 8, a group of armed men believed to be Murle attacked a Lou Nuer pastoralist group near Walgak, Jonglei State, killing 85, including 65 confirmed civilians.
On April 9, unidentified armed actors attacked a UN convoy escorted by UNMISS in Pibor County, Jonglei. The attack resulted in the death of five UNMISS peacekeepers and seven staff members and injury to at least nine others. The UN conducted a board of inquiry into the incident.
Media and international NGOs reported more than 300 persons died in ethnic violence in Pibor County, Jonglei, during the mobilization of thousands of Lou Nuer youth and their movement into Murle areas in July.
On August 9, eight persons were killed and six injured in a cattle raid in Twic East County, Jonglei, by suspected Murle raiders.
In October suspected Murle raiders killed 79 individuals, injured 78 others, and abducted several women and children in a cattle raid in Twic East County, Jonglei.
Although Jonglei State saw the most extensive violence during the year, particularly in July, conflict-related violence, killings, and displacement affected several other states throughout the year. For example, inter-clan clashes in Lakes State on January 16 left 10 dead and a dozen injured, while continued inter-clan clashes on January 18 left 25 dead and 30 injured. Nineteen persons were killed on February 19 due to ethnic clashes in Warrap State. On March 27, three civilians were killed in Northern Bahr el Ghazal in an attack attributed to the Government of Sudan, and five civilians and one police officer were killed in Warrap on the same day in a cattle raid. On April 15, 13 persons were killed in a cattle raid in Eastern Equatoria State. On July 16, a cattle raid in Unity State resulted in the deaths of 17 individuals.
From December 15 to 18, PG and other security forces members reportedly conducted targeted killings of several hundred ethnic Nuer civilians within Juba. Witnesses reported that targeted ethnic killings occurred in the city throughout the remainder of the year. On December 16, a survivor and other witnesses reported that approximately 250 Nuer men were gathered on the basis of their ethnicity in the Gudele neighborhood and taken to a police station holding cell, where PG forces shot repeatedly into the cell from the windows, killing all but eight men, who survived by lying under dead bodies for approximately 24 hours. Also on December 16, witnesses reported that the PG went door to door in a Juba neighborhood near the Nile River, collecting approximately 240 Nuer men, whom they bound, blindfolded, shot, and threw into the river.
Targeted killings of ethnic Dinka by civilian and antigovernment forces were reported in other states and were believed to be in reaction to the abuses in Juba that began on December 15. NGOs reported that RMG forces killed all Dinka civilians, including the deputy county commissioner, who remained in Akobo, Jonglei State, after antigovernment forces took control of the area in late December. On December 19, three UN peacekeepers were killed when Nuer youth attacked the UN compound in Akobo, also killing 20 Dinka civilians who had sought refuge in the compound. NGOs also reported killings of Dinka in Malakal, Upper Nile State, when antigovernment forces took control of the city.
On December 27, the media reported antigovernment forces killed approximately 30 women and children in attacks on two villages, Agarak and Aliap, in Unity State.
Abductions: In January the media reported that 14 women and children were abducted during Sudanese army attacks on the SPLA in Kitkit, Western Bahr el Gazal.
Intertribal and intercommunal clashes, particularly between the Murle, Lou Nuer, and Bor Dinka communities in Jonglei State, resulted in abductions of women and children. For example, in the February 8 attack in Walgak, armed men alleged to be Murle attacked a Lou Nuer pastoralist group, and as many as 34 women and children were reported abducted.
While the Murle were often cited as the primary group engaged in abductions, local government representatives and humanitarian actors reported numerous abductions in the July Lou Nuer attack on Pibor County as well. The Pibor County commissioner’s report on the July violence stated that the attackers abducted 32 women and children. Some community members asserted that such abductions were for the purpose of retrieving previously abducted family members. In addition, humanitarian groups received reports of abductions between Murle and Jieh, as well as Bor Dinka and Murle during the year, although on a much less frequent basis and smaller scale.
Suspected LRA elements committed several abuses from November 4 to 11 in Western Equatoria State, including abduction of four women and children, killing of one boy, and burning and looting of homes. Investigations into these incidents continued at the end of the year.
From December 16 through the end of the year, an unknown number of Nuer civilians in Juba disappeared. Government security forces reportedly detained them for being potential supporters of the political or military opposition. SPLA forces also reportedly abducted civilians from within the UNMISS compound in Bor during the second half of December.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government, antigovernment, 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 2012, 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 2012. Very few offenders were held to account. Unconfirmed media reports indicated in October that two SPLA officers were convicted of rape, but the SPLA did not indicate when the offenses occurred or what sentences, if any, were carried out.
UNMISS and NGOs believed that victims of abduction by both Murle and Lou Nuer were commonly raped repeatedly while in captivity, although many rapes went unreported.
Humanitarian actors received several reports of SPLA abducting and raping women and using torture against men to solicit information. In February a new contingent of SPLA soldiers reportedly demanded sexual favors from women seeking to access water points in Boma, Jonglei State. In March there were reports of the abduction and rape of women and girls in Kondako, near Pibor town, Jonglei State, including girls as young as six.
Despite international-led efforts to clear them, mines were a threat to local populations in some areas.
Humanitarian actors reported remining in Jonglei State throughout the year, and humanitarian staff treated at least two mine victims in the area, although access to suspected hazardous areas remained difficult. According to the UN, 625 known or suspected hazardous areas existed in the country.
The outbreak of conflict on December 15 exacerbated the conditions of already vulnerable populations, women, and children. The media reported that children were separated from their parents in overcrowded camps. Incidents of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence were reported. UN personnel received reports of persons raped by uniformed assailants in Malakal in Upper Nile State. During the second half of December, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the UNMISS compound in Tong Ping, Juba, frequently reported that security forces raped Nuer women who left the camp in search of food and supplies.
Child Soldiers: Since the outbreak of conflict on December 15, there were reports of forced conscription by government forces and recruitment and use of child soldiers by both government and antigovernment forces. There were also reports of seven new recruitments of 64 children by security forces during the year to serve in noncombatant roles, mostly to assist elderly veterans. Half of these boys were reunited with their families by year’s end. An SPLA/UN report in August, which tracked demobilization of child soldiers since efforts began in March 2012, stated that the SPLA had identified 254 boys within the armed forces and RMG forces, including 167 associated with the SPLA. During the year the SPLA and RMGs released 174 child soldiers, who were returned to their families, and assisted with reintegration programs. The National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) Commission continued work on the remaining cases. In August the SPLA initiated an investigation into reports of children associated with units in Basilia in Eastern Equatoria State. The SPLA reported 50 boys associated with its troops in Pochalla, Jonglei State. The NGO that reported these numbers reflected increased SPLA sensitivity in reporting such incidents and improved screening mechanisms.
On August 14, General Hoth Mai, SPLA chief of general staff, signed a new directive on the Child Protection Punitive Order, which requires commanders to sign and deliver to him a certification of persons under age 18 within 60 days following completion of unit inspections for underage personnel.
The number of occupied schools rose since September 2012, when the SPLA was present in only one school. As of August, SPLA forces occupied 25 schools. New occupations were reported regularly during the year. For example, the SPLA set up two new bases for military operations against militias allied with David Yau Yau in two schools in Jonglei State. In some instances civilian authorities reportedly offered schools to the SPLA for military operations. This occurred in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Eastern Equatoria states, according to international observers.
The DDR Commission continued to monitor 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. It also undertook training initiatives for SPLA judge advocates on child protection.
RMGs recruited child soldiers, with some groups relying on youth as their primary fighting force. No estimate of numbers of juveniles in RMGs was available, although observers believed David Yau Yau’s militia, numbering in the thousands, included a significant number of child soldiers. 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. The government also harassed humanitarian workers and interfered with aid delivery.
Conflict often prevented humanitarian access. For example, on June 14, the SPLA prevented members of a UN interagency mission from moving freely in Pibor town and accessing their own compounds. Some humanitarian actors reported that during the months of June and July, the SPLA, at times, restricted access and interfered with relief operations on the ground, particularly in Pibor town, Jonglei State. In July, SPLA leadership instituted a policy to allow humanitarian actors to provide assistance in all areas of need in Jonglei State, including locations outside government control. By August most humanitarian actors stated that the SPLA allowed them access to all areas, but that weather and infrastructure often limited relief operations.
During the conflict between government and antigovernment forces in December, the government prevented humanitarian flights into Bor, Jonglei State, on multiple occasions, leaving the UNMISS compound and IDPs with critically low food, water, and medical supplies, and inhibiting the UN’s ability to evacuate injured civilians and vulnerable IDPs.
OCHA reported 128 incidents of interference with humanitarian access from January to June. Violence against humanitarian personnel, destruction of facilities, and the looting of assets remained of the most significant concern. Reports indicated that this violence constituted an estimated 64 percent of recorded incidents between April and June, and robbery constituted approximately 50 percent of the incidents of violence against humanitarian personnel and assets. More than 40 percent of all theft targeted humanitarian storage facilities in Maban County, Upper Nile State, where the largest refugee camp exists for Sudanese fleeing fighting in Sudan.
In April and May, SPLA soldiers prevented civilians from leaving Pibor town, looted supplies from civilian homes and NGO facilities, and used civilians as human shields during rebel attacks on Boma.
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 near the Sudan border to protect themselves against SAF attacks or for recuperation and resupply. NGOs and UN agencies voiced concerns that the SPLM-N presence in refugee camps endangered civilians and charged that the 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, resisted efforts by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian agencies to relocate refugees to camps farther south of the Sudanese border. Some NGOs attributed this to SPLM-N forces benefiting from proximity to Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Displacements due to LRA activity in prior years continued to affect communities in Western Equatoria State.
The government’s capacity to assist 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.
Fighting among the SPLA, David Yau Yau’s forces, and armed elements of the Murle and Lou Nuer communities in Pibor County may have displaced as many as 120,000 residents of Pibor and Akobo Counties since July 2012.
Continued fighting in multiple states between government and antigovernment forces affiliated with Riek Machar and fear of extrajudicial killings targeting specific ethnic groups displaced 180,000 individuals during the second half of December.
Since 2011 the sporadic fighting between SAF and SPLM-N forces and indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilians in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states resulted in the displacement of 203,595 refugees from Sudan to South Sudan by October. Of these, 75,517 were in Unity State, 7,322 in Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria states, and 120,751 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. The country hosted approximately 224,693 refugees from neighboring countries as of October.
According to the IOM, 59,732 persons of South Sudanese origin or descent returned to the country from Sudan between January 1 and July 31, the lowest number for this period since 2007. Returnees sometimes were subjected to abuse by security forces and RMGs and faced confrontation from local communities over land, housing, and other limited resources. According to OCHA, there could be more than 250,000 South Sudanese still in Sudan.