Subject: The Forgotten Shilluk Civilians in Upper Nile State in South Sudan
Dear Your Excellency Ban Ki-moon:
August 28, 2015 (SSNA) -- We the undersigned members of the Shilluk community in Diaspora would like to draw your attention, the attention of the UN and the wider international community to the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in the Shilluk Kingdom by the dictatorial regime of President Salva Kiir of South Sudan. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the horrendous crimes and violations of international humanitarian law being committed against unarmed Shilluk civilians in the Upper Nile State of the Republic of South Sudan. We are deeply saddened by the continued devastation and denial of access of NGOs to provide food and medical supplies to the civilian population.
It is with considerable sadness that we write this letter to you, in the name of the thousands of defenseless, starving, sick and desperate Shilluk people in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan who are being bombarded daily by the ruthless regimes of President Kiir and Yuweri Museveni of Uganda who is shamefully actively supporting him on the ground. We are aware that you are fully informed and aware of the government of South Sudan’s recent decision to deny humanitarian access and aid to civilian populations who have been caught up in the conflict zones and of the deliberate bombardment of civilian populations, schools and hospitals in Chollo areas by the governments of South Sudan and Uganda.
We would like here to mention some of the most recent human rights violations in Shilluk areas. For instance, after the recent government recapture Malakal, the capital city of Upper Nile State, from the rebels in July 2015, it used Ugandan-led air bombardments and deliberately targeted the civilian population including hospitals and schools in the towns of Kodok and Owaci where aid organizations were assisting people in need, destroying hospitals, schools and houses and killing civilians including children, women and elderly. Entire Shilluk communities have been forced out from their ancestral homes by the repeated bombardments and they are nowliving under harsh conditions in the bush fearing for their lives. Many of these civilians are facing dire humanitarian situation such as a lack of food, medicine, sanitation and shelter from heavy rains and other elements. Again, in a separate incident in Kodok, a hospital run by International Committee of Red Cross was bombarded several times where approximately thirty patients lost their lives. These barbaric incidents forced the Red Cross to withdraw from the area and left civilians vulnerable due to lack of health services. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross 12 civilians have been killed in Kodok as a result of bombing of the hospital and school by the government of South Sudan using Ugandan helicopter gunships.
On Saturday, July 18, 2015, a truck full of civilians’ mostly women and children was ambushed on the highway linking Malakal and Paloch by the so called Dongjol Dinka Militia supported by South Sudan’s government. These civilians were on their way from Malakal to Paloch. The truck was travelling from Malakal and carrying goods and food aid for the IDPs at UNMISS in Paloch. The militias began shooting at the truck and killed two Shilluk civilians and dozens of others were wounded and brought to UNMISS health facilities in Malakal. On May 24, 2015, the combined forces of the Padang Dinka SPLA of Akoka, Darfur forces and Blue Nile forces killed and wounded 28 Shilluk civilians near UNMISS outside Paloch. Many of the victims could not be recognized except for only three, identified as follows; Chan Charles Othow, Wilson Sabino Ayul, Ayual Ajak Adwong. Again on May 25, 2015, about 30 Shilluk youth disappeared after they went to the town in Malakal and never return to UNMISS. Many assumed they may have been killed by the Padang Dinka SPLA.
In another recent incident, the killing of Shilluk civilians occurred on Sunday, July 26, 2015; when a Dinka counterinsurgency within SPLA government forces in Upper Nile State ambushed Shilluk civilians on the road between UNMISS at Malakal town and Makal village at about 8:00 pm at night. The civilians were coming from Wau Shilluk in search of food. Four people were found dead on Sunday morning and one person was wounded and has been treated in the hospital in UNMISS compound. Dinka SPLA forces continue to kill Chollo civilians and this is clearly an orchestrated ethnic cleansing which should be confronted by the international community.
Reports from sources in affected areas on the ground indicate that children, the elderly, and women are dying every day in Kodok, Wau Shilluk and many other areas in the Shilluk Kingdom in Upper Nile State due to lack of food and medicines. Furthermore, the government of South Sudan is continuing to prevent the NGOs, UN agencies and other aid groups from reaching civilians in the Shilluk land who have been affected by the conflict. Under the international humanitarian law and the laws of war, the South Sudanese government is obligated to allow and facilitate rapid and unrestricted passage of humanitarian relief to civilians who have been affected by the conflict.
We strongly call on UN, IGAD, the AU, the Troika countries and EU to bring more pressure to bear on the government of South Sudan and its partner in crime, the Ugandan government, to immediately stop all forms of indiscriminate aerial bombardments against the civilian population in the Shilluk areas of Upper Nile State, to stop preventing the NGOs from delivering food aid to the civilians who have been trapped in the West bank of the Nile and for the Ugandan government to withdraw its forces from the area. The Ugandan bombardment of civilian populations constitutes serious violation of international humanitarian law.
We urge the international community to act against the government of South Sudan and uphold the principles of international humanitarian law by ensuring humanitarian access andassistance to the civilian populations who have been affected by the conflict. In recent weeks the government of South Sudan has intensified its offensive against the rebels in the Upper Nile State and surrounding areas. In this fight against the rebels, the government of South Sudan is committing serious human right abuses, pursuing scorched earth policy and committing war crimes against unarmed civilian populations who are not party to this conflict. What is happening now in the Shilluk Kingdom is similar to what the same so called South Sudan army of the SPLA did in 2010 when they burned entire Chollo (Shilluk) villages, raped hundreds of women and girls and killed an untold number of civilians in Shilluk villages as reported in the following link: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/africa/2010/12/201012237023933452.html
The UNMISS has moral obligation to fulfill its mandate to protect civilians in Malakal town and the entire Shilluk Kingdom from the violence by ensuring that peacekeepers are deployed in larger numbers to Malakal town and other areas in Upper Nile state. Despite the fact that Malakal is under control of the government of South Sudan, South Sudan’s government has failed its responsibility to protect the civilians in Malakal, Kodok, Owaci and Wau Shilluk in Upper Nile State. UNMISS should provide more security to protect civilians anddisplaced people in its bases in Malakal and other areas in South Sudan.
What is happening in Upper Nile state is a crime against humanity whereby the killing of civilians continues and acts of terror, atrocities, destruction and looting of properties are committed by the very government forceswho are supposed to protect the civilians. Already many international observers are predicting horrific famine in South Sudan similar to the famine which occurred in 1988 where many lives were lost due to starvation. The following link provides an example of the desperate conditions of the civilians who have been trapped in the conflict in the Shilluk Kingdom in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan: http://www.france24.com/en/20150620-exclusive-south-sudan-fighting-displaced-nile-frontlines-malakal.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the hospitals in Kodok that were catering for the vulnerable civilian population were left with serious shortages of doctors and medical personnel because ICRC staff could not safely access the area. In its recent report, UNICEF indicated that most of Shilluk civilians on the West bank of the Nile River are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. This link is the latest example of desperate civilian situation of those trapped in the conflict in the Shilluk Kingdom. http://news.yahoo.com/south-sudan-thousands-risk-starvation-amid-nile-blockade-111838300.html.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Doctors without Borders also reported the dire situation of the civilians and appealed for urgent humanitarian relief. They and called on the government of South Sudan to allow unrestricted access to Malakal and surrounding areas so that aid agencies can provide urgent humanitarian assistance to thousands of people caught up in the violence in Upper Nile state. This is another Link to the reality of the situation: https://www.msf.org.za/msf-publications/south-sudan-msf-calls-urgent-humanitarian-access-to-upper-nile-state
We are therefore urgently appealing to the UN and the international community to act and rescue civilians in the Shilluk Kingdom. The suffering of the civilian population in the Shilluk Kingdom continues to worsen due to continuing violence and lack of humanitarian assistance. President Salva Kiir’s regime should know that under the UN Charter for member states, Article 56, they have a legal obligation to respect and ensure respect for human rights such as the rights to food, shelter and basic medical care for the civilian populations in the conflict.
However, It is clear that Kiir’s government continues to deliberately cut off humanitarian assistance to Chollo (Shilluk) civilian populations along the Nile, in particular on the west bank, including areas hosting large numbers of displaced persons in Wau Shilluk, Kodok and Owaci. It is also clear that President Salva Kiir’s government is using food as a weapon of war to starving Shilluk civilians. This is the worst human rights violation under international humanitarian law and the world must act to stop the killing of civilians and save lives. South Sudan government and Ugandan warplanes continue to bomb civilians in the Shilluk Kingdom of Upper Nile State as we speak.
Your Excellency, your intervention to stop the continuing genocide and crimes against humanity taking place in South Sudan and humanitarian relief for the civilians affected by the conflict is urgently needed. Your Excellency, we believe your leadership can play a crucial role by putting pressure on the government of South Sudan to end its restriction of humanitarian aid for the people of the Shilluk Kingdom and to end the air bombardment against civilian populations.
In conclusion, we respectfully reiterate the following:
1. We urge your Excellency as Secretary General and executive head of the UN, to immediately establish a high-level inquiry and fact finding mission in affected areas with a view to thoroughly investigate these war crimes and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.
2. We are appealing for urgent humanitarian relief for people in need in Shilluk Kingdom in South Sudan who have been affected by the senseless violence and ignored by the international community.
3. We are urging the AU, the Troika countries, EU and UN to put pressure on the government of South Sudan to immediately end restriction of humanitarian aid and the provision of food and medicine to the civilian population who have been affected by the conflict.
4. We call upon the IGAD-plus, the AU, the Troika countries, EU and UN to condemn these crimes against humanity and bring more pressure on the government of South Sudan and its partner in crime the Ugandan government to immediately stop all forms of indiscriminate aerial bombardments against the civilian populations.
5. We urge the IGAD-plus, the AU, the Troika countries, the EU and the UN to directly engage in the current peace talks and actively support efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement of the ongoing crisis and exert pressure on warring parties for an enduring peace in South Sudan.
With the warmest of regards,
Signed by the Chollo Community in Diaspora