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.
During 2016 and 2017, the UN monitors said a military campaign by government troops in 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 caused extreme food insecurity among large sections of the population, with malnutrition and death by starvation the documented outcome, in particular in Greater Baggari in Wau County,” they said in the report submitted to the UN 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 report.
The United Nations warned the violence in South Sudan was providing “fertile ground” for genocide.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited Juba last month, where she told Kiir the United States had lost trust in his government and risked losing Washington’s support if he did not pursue peace.
The UN monitors reported government regularly denied humanitarian aid access to certain parts of the population, in particular areas outside Wau, visited by UN Security Council ambassadors in September last year.
“One of those areas, Greater Baggari, is noteworthy for the persistent and systematic nature of government’s access denials and the catastrophic humanitarian conditions that have resulted,” the independent UN monitors said.
In August, government eased restrictions, allowing aid groups to distribute food and lifesaving assistance to more than 12,000 people in Greater Baggari. Villages were looted and burned and crops destroyed, the UN monitors wrote.
One humanitarian assessment mission told UN monitors 164 young children and elderly died from hunger and disease between January and September 2017.
The report found 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.”
UN peacekeepers have been deployed in South Sudan since 2011.