The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has confirmed that civilians were killed en masse at the Bentiu hospital and mosque last Tuesday and Wednesday, also disclosing that the radio station in Bentiu is being used to broadcast hate messages.
Rebels who took over Bentiu town last week were accused of killing civilians from both the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups who had not supported their cause, as well as Sudanese Darfuris, whom they accused of supporting the government.
In a statement released this morning, the peacekeeping mission stated that it “strongly condemns the targeted killings of civilians based on their ethnic origins and nationality in Bentiu.”
The UN said that it had confirmed that when SPLA in Opposition forces captured Bentiu on 15 and 16 April, they searched a number of places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge and killed hundreds of the civilians after determining their ethnicity or nationality.
“At Bentiu Hospital, on 15 April, several Nuer men, women and children were killed for hiding and declining to join other Nuers who had gone out to cheer the SPLA in Opposition forces as they entered the town. Individuals from other South Sudanese communities, as well as Darfuris, were specifically targeted and killed at the hospital,” says the statement.
“On the same day, the SPLA in Opposition forces entered the Kali-Ballee Mosque where civilians had taken shelter, separated individuals of certain nationalities and ethnic groups and escorted them to safety, while the others were killed. More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded at the Mosque. At the Catholic church and at the vacated WFP compound, SPLA in Opposition soldiers similarly asked civilians who had taken refuge there to identify their ethnic origins and nationalities and proceeded to target and kill several individuals,” reads the statement.
Between 15 and 17 April, UNMISS extracted hundreds of civilians under threat in several places in Bentiu and Rubkona where they had taken refuge. Over 500 civilians, including many wounded, were extracted from the Bentiu Hospital and other places. The population of the camp at their base swelled to over 20,000, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator said yesterday.
The UN stated that the atrocities will be investigated and the “perpetrators and their commanders shall be held accountable.” The peacekeepers called on the rebels and the government to stop the targeting of unarmed civilians.
Hate speech on radio
UNMISS stated today that it “strongly condemns the use of Radio Bentiu FM by some individuals associated with the opposition to broadcast hate speech.”
“While some SPLA in Opposition commanders did broadcast messages calling for unity and an end to tribalism, others broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community,” added the statement.
Radio Bentiu is the only radio station in the state still able to function, other than Radio Tamazuj, which broadcasts to the state one hour per day on shortwave.
Since the crisis started last December, at least seven FM or AM stations went off air in the three states of Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile, with most of these remaining destroyed or closed.