[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Wednesday stated [press release] that the power struggle between Sudanese president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar is pushing the nation towards “catastrophe.” While visiting South Sudan to investigate recent mass killings throughout the country, Pillay saidthat her findings “reinforced the view” that the country’s leaders have “embarked on a personal power struggle that has brought their people to the verge of catastrophe.” During a press conference, she stated:
The deadly mix of recrimination, hate speech, and revenge killings that has developed relentlessly over the past four and a half months seems to be reaching boiling point, and I have been increasingly concerned that neither South Sudan’s political leaders nor the international community at large seem to perceive quite how dangerous the situation now is.
The UN’s aid chief in the country also asked for at the very least one month of “tranquility” to allow people to move freely and secure a good harvest for the end of 2014.
South Sudan [JURIST backgrounder] has been criticized for its human rights abuses since becoming an independent nation, and the domestic conflict is characterized by severe ethnic and sectarian violence. Pillay’s most recent visit was prompted by a rebel attack [JURIST report] on an oil hub that killed hundreds and a separate assault by rivals on a UN base. In an article published in February, JURIST guest columnist Kevin Cope of Georgetown University Law Center argues [JURIST op-ed] that constitutional structure may have a larger impact on the crisis in South Sudan than members of the international community realize. In January Human Rights Watch called for [JURIST report] an international commission of inquiry among leaders from South Sudan, the African Union and the UN to investigate targeted attacks on civilians based on ethnicity in South Sudan.