An investigation conducted by African Union investigators has revealed the presence of mass graves located in South Sudan. Investigators also found evidence of horrific and unbelievable crimes – one of which was forcing civilians to eat and consume human flesh.
In late 2013, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir accused his then former deputy Riek Machar of trying to stage a coup. Machar denied the accusations but nonetheless mobilized and led rebel forces to fight the government. The fighting has resulted in thousands dead and has displaced over 2.2 million people from their homes.
However, the recently released investigative report disputes that there ever was a coup by Machar. The report indicates that, prior to the alleged coup, Kiir’s troops carried out organized and mass killings of members of the Nuer people in the capital city of Juba. When the violence erupted in 2013, Machar, a Nuer, then became a leader of the rebels.
The investigation was led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. He found that the civil war began on Dec. 15, 2013, as a scuffle broke out between Nuer and Dinka soldiers after political tensions rose between Kiir and Machar. Machar was fired as Kiir’s top deputy the previous summer.
As a result of the skirmish, hundreds of Nuer men were gathered together and shot, and mass graves were created. The alleged Dinka perpetrators consisted of government forces and/or their allies. They physically tortured their victims in heinous ways, including forcing innocent civilians to eat human flesh or to jump in fires.
The report describes the killings as “an organized military operation that could not have been successful without concerted efforts from various actors in the military and government circles. Roadblocks or checkpoints were established all around Juba and house to house searches were undertaken by security forces. During this operation male Nuers were targeted, identified, killed on the spot or gathered in one place and killed.”
The report said that Kuol Manyang Juuk, the Minister of Defense, described a “group (that had) organized itself as Rescue the President. It killed most people here (in Juba) — from [December] 15th to 18th. It was even more powerful than organized forces.”
After the killings in Juba, Machar fled and organized an insurgency responsible for committing revenge attacks against the Dinka, starting a wave of violence that included rape and murder of people in hospitals and churches. Because the revenge attacks occurred so quickly, investigators determined they were also likely coordinated.
Twenty months after the fighting, Machar and Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, recently signed a peace agreement – although the fighting continues.