South Sudan: Kiir’s Government troops and militias given free rein to commit new atrocities

SEPT/09/2018-Press Release, Amnesty International;

The staggering brutality of a recent military offensive in South Sudan – including murder of civilians, systematic rape of women and girls and massive looting and destruction – was fuelled by the authorities’ failure to prosecute or remove suspected war criminals, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

‘Anything that was breathing was killed’: War crimes in Leer and Mayendit, South Sudan is based on the testimonies of around 100 civilians who fled an offensive by government forces and allied youth militias in southern Unity State between late April and early July this year.

“A key factor in this brutal offensive was the failure to bring to justice those responsible for previous waves of violence targeting civilians in the region,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Regional Director for East Africa at Amnesty International.

“Leer and Mayendit counties have been hard hit in the past, and yet the South Sudanese government continues to give suspected perpetrators free rein to commit fresh atrocities. The result has been catastrophic for civilians.”

Civilians murdered in villages and swamps

Unity State has witnessed some of the most ruthless violence since the conflict in South Sudan started nearly five years ago.

The most recent wave of violence broke out on 21 April 2018 and lasted until early July – a week after the latest ceasefire was brokered on 27 June.

Dozens of civilian women and men told Amnesty International how the offensive was characterized by staggering brutality, with civilians deliberately shot dead, burnt alive, hanged in trees and run over with armoured vehicles in opposition-held areas in Mayendit and Leer counties.

Soldiers and militias used amphibious vehicles to hunt down civilians who fled to nearby swamps. Survivors described how groups of five or more soldiers swept through the vegetation in search of people, often shooting indiscriminately into the reeds.

Nyalony, an elderly woman, told Amnesty International she witnessed soldiers killing her husband and two other men:

“When the attack started, early in the morning while we were sleeping, my husband and I ran to the swamp together. Later in the morning, after the fighting was over, the soldiers came into the swamp looking for people, and sprayed the area where we were hiding with bullets. My husband was hit; he cried out in pain. He was still alive, though, and the soldiers caught him, and then they shot him again and killed him. He was unarmed and wasn’t a fighter; just a farmer.”

Those unable to flee – especially the elderly, children and people with disabilities – were often killed in their villages. Several people described how elderly relatives or neighbours were burnt alive in their tukuls – traditional dwellings – and one man over 90 years old had his throat slit with a knife.

Nyaweke, a 20-year-old woman, told Amnesty International she witnessed the soldiers shooting her father and then brutally murdering several children in the village of Thonyoor, Leer county:

“There were seven men [soldiers] who collected the children and put them into a tukul and they set the tukul on fire. I could hear the screaming. They were four boys. One boy tried to come out and the soldiers closed the door on him. There were also five boys whom they hit against the tree, swinging them. They were two [or] three years old. They don’t want especially boys to live because they know they will grow up to become soldiers.”

Other survivors described similarly horrific incidents, including one in Rukway village in Leer, where an elderly man and woman and their two young grandsons were burnt to death in a house. When their daughter ran out, carrying a small baby, a soldier shot her and crushed the baby to death with his foot.

‘They lined up to rape us’

Survivors also told Amnesty International that government and allied forces abducted numerous civilians, primarily women and girls, and held them for up to several weeks. Their captors subjected them to systematic sexual violence – as one woman put it, “the Dinka lined up to rape us”.

Many women and girls were gang-raped, with some sustaining serious injuries. Those who tried to resist were killed.

One interviewee said a girl as young as eight was gang-raped and another woman witnessed the rape of a 15-year-old boy.

A 60-year-old man described finding his 13-year-old niece after she was gang-raped by five men:

“My brother’s daughter was raped and she was going to die. When they raped her, we came and found her and she was crying and bleeding … she couldn’t hide … she told me she was raped by five men. We could not carry her and she could not walk.”

In one village alone, Médecins Sans Frontières reported treating 21 survivors of sexual violence in a 48-hour period.

In addition to being raped, many of the abducted women and girls were subjected to forced labour, including carrying looted goods for long distances, as well as cooking and cleaning for their captors. Some of those abducted – including women and men – were held in metal containers and were beaten or otherwise ill-treated.

Trail of destruction

Government forces and allied militias engaged in massive looting and destruction during their attacks in Leer and Mayendit, apparently aimed at deterring the civilian population from returning.

They systematically set fire to civilian homes, looted or burned food supplies, and stole livestock and valuables.

Many survivors returned home from weeks or months in hiding only to find that everything had been destroyed. They described how food supplies in particular had been targeted – with crops burnt, livestock looted or killed, and even fruit trees uprooted.

This deliberate attack on food sources came as civilians in Leer and Mayendit were just beginning to recover from a famine had been declared in their counties in February 2017 – the first time since 2011 that famine was declared anywhere in the world.

Vicious cycle fuelled by impunity

Amnesty International previously visited Unity State in early 2016 and documented violations that took place during the previous military offensive on southern areas of the state, including Leer county.

Following that visit, the organization identified four individuals suspected of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity and called on South Sudan’s military chief-of-staff to investigate them. There was no response. Recent UN reports have suggested that some of these individuals may also have been involved in the atrocities committed during the 2018 offensive.

“It’s impossible to ignore the cruel reality – if the South Sudanese authorities had acted on our warnings back in 2016, this latest wave of violence against civilians in Leer and Mayendit might have been avoided,” said Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

“The only way to break this vicious cycle of violence is to end the impunity enjoyed by South Sudanese fighters on all sides. The government must ensure that civilians are protected and that those responsible for such heinous crimes are held to account.”
Amnesty International is urging South Sudan’s government to end all the abuses and to establish immediately the Hybrid Court, which has been in limbo since 2015. The organization is also calling on the United Nations Security Council to enforce the long overdue arms embargo adopted in July.

Public Document
For more information or to arrange an interview, please call:
Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on:
+44 20 7413 5566 or
twitter: @amnestypress

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK


  1. Dhong says:

    Get worried,This agreement is binding and leading to permanent peaceful South Sudan.South Sudanese are not profit making organizations to pump in more grants and donations into your bloody bank accounts.We are giving no more chance to Amnesty International to serve in South Sudan anytime.You bloody money seekers get your dirty politics out of South Sudan.we dont need your free interviews and human mercy.

  2. Bala says:

    Agitrop that is. Read the SPLM/A manifesto to digest if the crimes mentioned are unpunishable in that booklet. If everything that moves is killed, you won’t have interviewed people at all. Question the most powerful in terms of nuclear power and see if you can get those stories.

  3. Bala says:

    First read the background of President Kiir before spewing out an unsubstantiated reports about him and his army. How the hack the person who has never been a militia himself has to end up with a militia after all?All the talks about Gelweng being involved are hearsay. Tell the people who has gotten rid of the original army before the independence. Have they retired or all got killed by the governments of Sudan before the independence of South Sudan was accomplished? Awaiting your answers,that is.

    • Eastern says:


      Now you are here spewing RAW Agitrop, why don’t you allow those on the opposing sides have their say…?

      Kiir is privy/has a hand in MOST of the killing Garang is/was blamed for. Let’s stop this Agitrop and get prepared for the next avalanche of Hybrid Court for South Sudan….!

      • Bala says:


        I am not draconian, Machiavellian and Orwellian. I support people who form opinions. These opinions should not be imposed as facts on any society of people. Opinions should not masquerade as evidence of facts. They must not look like honest and ethical articles but start with personal pronouns.

        Everyone is free to express opinions. Yours are the examples of enjoying the best treatment. Evidence such as yours exists and shows that the government respects your rights to do what you want and say,though there are limits. What your mother can’t approve of you doing, doesn’t have to go out, no matter what you are capable of.

        This is just an expression that doesn’t mean a mama’s boy or girl.What you said here is not what the person who wrote and posted above article did. Yours is an opinion.Claims in the report above are baseless. In fact, his or hers are an absolute fabrication or misrepresentation of truth to mislead.

        There are similar articles like this one, replicated by the UN right groups in the first place. They all look like the one above, from Somalia to the DRC and now, South Sudan. Just ask yourself if the war in South Sudan has ever been more intensed like its peaks of 2013, going to 2014 and from 2016 to 2018, you should conclude it yourself that the war has been increasingly declining and to that my brother,the details which come from that report above is an embodiment of propaganda.
        The Amnesty International, although some uninformed people see it as caring for the humanity, it is saving none but furthering more divisions and any form of either armed or civil unrest amongst citizens. We are expected to remain harming one another for centuries.The same is true of some international NGOs. Organisation like these do not receive funds from governments. It is funded through street fundraising, usually by appealing to average citizens through emotions, derived from propagandistic portrayals of the governments like the current one in South Sudan whose its president was democratically elected as a dictatorship. Such assertion lacks substantiation. For once no elections were denied to be held so that the citizens chose who they want and second ,the incumbents didn’t rig any democratic presidential elections.
        I know nothing like lack of democracy is said in the article to be ones of the causes of this war but the language of blaming the evils on the government is single-sided. It carries prejudice. The rebels are not saints or messiahs. Their leaders caused unnecessary war and there is nothing democratic about their actions..
        If you are fighting for federalism, leave it to citizens to vote for it.Countries like the United states in particular had the political system of governance selected by unselfish founding fathers who wrote the constitution with seperation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary. Such system was created long ago. It has seen less amendments as witness now. The hybrid court talked about if established, It will find that Dr John Garang was innocent and Salva Kiir did no harm to anyone by the Garang’s manesto.
        A manifesto is a set book of rules. It has to be followed like a constitution with considerations that it isn’t a full constitution, incorporating what everyone who knows the constitution desires.
        Most rules were designed to prevent inhumaned acts against civilians and military. Such acts have no place culturally and in the best sanctuary of good Christians worldwide.
        The hybrid court has implications on the people such as president Omar el Bashir who colluded with Dr Riek Machar and Dr Lam Akol by first trying to Kill both Dr Garang, Mr Kiir and then resorted to killing Dinka civilians after failure to kill both men.
        The former of the latest two even started slaughtering the civilians ever since he became an Islamist and then a soldier who promulgated the sharia law. Of course nothing can touch Bashir under the would-be hybrid court that you aspire to be effected, but some Equatorians with their commanders who have been responsible for killing both Dinka civilians on public roads will definitely be found guilty for targeting of those ones on either tribal or racial basis.
        I am fine with such a scenario to happen as long as any justice is considered.

  4. Guan Cie lang says:

    Fake news

  5. thehiro says:

    you, you south Sudanese,
    what is happening to your minds every time you are at war killing yourselves, like the fish who are eating each other.

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