A deadly upsurge in intercommunal violence in South Sudan has to stop and those responsible must be swiftly brought to justice, the UN human rights chief insisted Friday.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights, slammed the "appalling" attacks that have reportedly left hundreds dead in the world's youngest sovereign state.
The former Chilean president's office said that while politically-motivated fighting in South Sudan had declined, intercommunal violence had surged this year.
During the first three months of 2020, 658 people were killed in intercommunal violence in the country, while 452 were injured, the rights office said.
Another 592 people were abducted and 65 reported being subjected to sexual violence, it added.
"This recurring pattern of violence, which continues to claim lives in South Sudan, has to stop," Bachelet said in a statement.
"I urge the government to ensure measures are in place to investigate this violence and to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted, and that victims and their families have access to justice, truth and reparations."
South Sudan is emerging from a brutal six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead and millions displaced.
President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, the rebel leader who is now first vice president, reached a deal to form a unity government in February but remain at odds over issues including who will govern the country's 10 internal states.
The intercommunal conflicts, long driven by tensions over access to natural resources -- particularly water and grazing land for cattle -- have become increasingly militarised in terms of tactics and weaponry, Bachelet's office said.
"For the peace in South Sudan to be durable, the state authorities must act to end these cycles of retaliatory violence, including by holding those responsible to account and promoting peace-building between individual communities," said Bachelet.
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