AU: Coordinated mass killings by Kiir allies inflamed civil war South Sudan

The civil war in South Sudan has started with a coordinated and possibly planned attack by state officials supporting president Salva Kiir. There is no evidence of any coup attempt.

The civil war in South Sudan was inflamed by a coordinated and possibly planned attack by state officials supporting president Salva Kiir. There is no evidence of a coup attempt by the opposition. Irregular state forces disguised as “street cleaners” allegedly already scouted areas of Juba in the weeks before the massacres.

This can be concluded from the African Union Commission of Inquiry that released on Tuesday a comprehensive report on the start of the South Sudan civil war December 16, 2013.

Radio Tamazuj reports that the AU inquiry commission details numerous accounts of systematic murders, rapes, torture and other atrocities including alleged cases of forced cannibalism perpetrated by members of the South Sudan army and security forces. (

The African Union investigation found that the killings in Juba were coordinated and possibly also planned, inflaming a war killing tens of thousands and uprooting over 1,5 million people. The investigators found no evidence of a coup attempt by the former vice president, Riek Machar who responded with an armed opposition. The claim of a coup by President Salva Kiir to justify widespread violence against mainly the Nuer could not be supported and the AU instead concluded that a gunfight within the Presidential Guards was the immediate trigger for further violence. In this fight “Dinka members of the Presidential guard and other security forces targeted Nuer soldiers and civilians… killing Nuer soldiers and civilians in and near their homes.” President Salva Kiir is a member of the Dinka-tribe, while his rival Riek Machar is from the Nuer.

“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,” states the Commission report.

According to the African Union report, there were at least two large massacres perpetrated in Juba, including one at the so-called 'J2 palace' adjacent to the Presidential palace  and another at the Gudele Joint Operation Centre, a police station.

The AU report identifies the four operational sector commanders as General Salva Mathok for Amarat neighborhood, General Bol Akot for Gudele and Mia Saba neighborhoods, General Garang Mabir for Mangaten and General Marial Chanuong for Khor William. Salva Mathok is a relative of Salva Kiir and Marial Chanuong is the head of Kiir's presidential guards. Bol Akot has been identified in previous reports as a “civilian” who led militia at the time of the massacres and whom Kiir later gave a senior rank in the army.

'The violence was organized'

The AU report goes on to quote the Minister of Defense Kuol Manyang as saying that a militia loyal to Salva Kiir known as Rescue the President (Dut Ku Beny in Dinka) “killed most people here [in Juba] — from 15th to 18th.” This refers to a force that other witnesses describe as Kiir's “personal army”, which he allegedly recruited and based at his private farm at Luri near Juba.

Other testimonies in the report, however, point more to the role of organized forces in the killings rather than the so-called private army.

Article 812 of the Commission of Inquiry report concludes, “The evidence thus suggests that these crimes were committed pursuant to or in furtherance of a State policy. Indeed, the method under which these crimes were committed prove the 'widespread or systematic nature' of the attacks. The evidence also shows that it was an organized military operation that could not have been successful without concerted efforts from various actors in the military and government circles.”

Professor Mahmood Mamdani, a Member of the AU Commission who authored a separate opinion on the Inquiry report stated, “The targeted violence was organized, not spontaneous. It was directed from a center.”

War crimes SPLA IO in Bor and Malakal

The AU Commission of Inquiry says that war crimes and atrocities were also committed by rebel forces later in the war: “The Commission believes that war crimes were committed in Bor town through indiscriminate killings of civilians by the SPLA/IO and White Army forces allied to Dr. Riek Machar.”

Atrocities were also reported to have been committed by Machar's forces or allied forces also in Malakal and outside Malakal in Baliet County where the AU Commission reported “much carnage.” For example, the Commission cited a witness who said that SPLA-IO killed 10 hospital patients in Malakal in January. Female civilians who were sheltering in the hospital at the same time were also abducted by the rebels and have not been seen again.

“Gang rape was (and continues to be) a common feature of the atrocities committed during the on-going conflict in South Sudan. Women and men as witnesses and survivors have given statements with reference to rapes of women and girls by more than one person… There were reports by respondents on the wide use of objects such as stones, guns and sticks to rape women. In most instances, that was reported as a new and horrifying phenomenon.”

“There are clear patterns of a vicious cycle of violence within violence developing,” reads the AU report.

The African Union report was produced after research by investigators in 2014 but its release was repeatedly delayed by the AU Commission and AU Peace and Security Council for almost a year.