S.Sudan's government using food as a weapon
11/11/2017 6:01AM

        South Sudan President
        Salva Kiir's government is using food as a weapon of war to
        target civilians by blocking life-saving aid in some areas,
        United Nations sanctions monitors told the Security Council in a
        confidential report seen by Reuters on Friday.
        
        During 2016 and 2017, the U.N. monitors said a military
        campaign by government troops in the northwestern town of Wau
        and surrounding areas in Western Bahr el-Ghazal targeted
        civilians on ethnic grounds and displaced more than 100,000.
        
        "The government has during much of 2017 deliberately
        prevented life-saving food assistance from reaching some
        citizens," the monitors wrote. "These actions amount to using
        food as a weapon of war with the intent to inflict suffering on
        civilians the government views as opponents to its agenda."
        
        "The denial of aid had caused extreme food insecurity among
        large sections of the population, with malnutrition and death by
        starvation the documented outcome, in particular in the Greater
        Baggari area in Wau County," they said in the report submitted
        to the U.N. Security Council's South Sudan sanctions committee.
        
        South Sudan's mission to the United Nations did not
        immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. report.
        
        South Sudan spiraled into civil war in late 2013, two years
        after gaining independence from Sudan, and a third of the 12
        million population has fled their homes. The conflict was
        sparked by a feud between Kiir, a Dinka, and his former deputy
        Riek Machar, a Nuer, who is being held in South Africa.
        
        The United Nations has warned that the violence in South
        Sudan was providing "fertile ground" for a genocide.
        
        U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited
        the Juba late last month, where she told Kiir that the United
        States had lost trust in his government and risked losing
        Washington's support if he did not pursue peace.
        
        
        
        'CATASTROPHIC'
        
        The U.N. monitors reported that the government had regularly
        denied humanitarian aid access to certain parts of the
        population, in particular areas outside the town of Wau, which
        was visited by U.N. Security Council ambassadors in September
        last year.
        
        "One of those areas, Greater Baggari, is noteworthy for the
        persistent and systematic nature of the government's access
        denials, and the catastrophic humanitarian conditions that have
        resulted," the independent U.N. monitors said.
        
        In August, the government eased restrictions, allowing aid
        groups to distribute food and lifesaving assistance to more than
        12,000 people in Greater Baggari. Villages had been looted and
        burned and crops destroyed, the U.N. monitors wrote.
        
        One humanitarian assessment mission told the U.N. monitors
        that 164 young children and elderly had died from hunger and
        disease between January and September 2017.
        
        The report by the U.N. monitors found that despite the
        catastrophic conditions across South Sudan, armed forces, groups
        and militias - particularly those affiliated with Kiir and Vice
        President Taban Deng Gai - continued to "actively impede both
        humanitarian and peacekeeping operations."
        
        U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed in South Sudan since
        2011.
        
        An East African bloc, IGAD, led two rounds of peace talks
        over two years, culminating in a brief power-sharing agreement
        signed by Kiir and Machar in 2015. But even as IGAD urges a new
        ceasefire, the warring parties are preparing for more fighting.
        
        "The coming dry season in South Sudan will, absent a change
        in the current conflict dynamics, see further fighting and
        civilian suffering as the government continues to pursue
        military victory over political compromise," the U.N. monitors
        wrote.