More than three years after South Sudan’s conflict began in the capital Juba in December 2013, the war has spread to the Greater Equatoria region, in the southern part of the country, which had until recently been largely spared from the fighting. In the past year alone, over one million civilians, many of them from villages in this region, have fled to neighbouring countries. More than 700,000 crossed into Uganda alone. As elsewhere in South Sudan, the conflict in the Equatorias has played on pre-existing ethnic and communal tensions and is marked by serious abuses committed against civilians by government soldiers and opposition fighters.
In May 2017, Human Rights Watch researchers visited two refugee settlements in northern Uganda and interviewed over 100 South Sudanese refugees who fled from the Kajo Keji and Pajok areas, south and southeast of Juba, between January and May of this year. Their accounts of serious violations at the hands of government soldiers match the wider patterns of violations observed since the government began to conduct counterinsurgency operations against opposition forces in the south and west of the country in late 2015.
Despite the signing in August 2015 of the Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), between the government and the armed opposition led by former vice-president Riek Machar, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (the “IO”), attacks on civilians have now become commonplace in the previously stable southern and western regions of the country. Fighting between government forces and the IO in the capital Juba reignited in July 2016.
The conflict reached the western parts of the Greater Equatorias region in late 2015, and expanded southeast in more recent episodes of violence. Human Rights Watch researchers documented the unlawful killing of at least 47 civilians from the Kajo Keji area, in the former state of Central Equatoria, by government forces between June 2016 and May 2017. Researchers also documented the unlawful killing of at least 13 men and 1 woman, all civilians, by government forces during a large-scale attack on the town of Pajok, in the former state of Eastern Equatoria.
Report by the Human Rights Watch
“Soldiers Assume We Are Rebels” – Escalating Violence and Abuses in South Sudan’s Equatorias4.49 MB