South Sudan is “on the brink of an all-out ethnic civil war,” the head of a UN human rights commission has warned.
Yasmin Sooka told the UN Human Rights Council the international community could prevent a “Rwanda-like” genocide by immediately deploying 4,000 peacekeepers to protect civilians.
She also called for the country to set up a court to prosecute atrocities in the world’s newest country.
Tens of thousands have been killed in fighting in South Sudan and more than a million people have fled.
The conflict erupted in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir fired his vice-president, Riek Machar, sparking a civil war.
While South Sudanese authorities have denied civilians are being targeted, refugees’ accounts point to both sides targeting civiliains along ethnic lines, supporting Ms Sooka’s warning of a repeat of the 1994 genocide.
Ms Sooka said thousands of women have been raped. She said the country’s crushed economy has the world’s highest inflation rate at more then 800 per cent in October.
The recent visit by the UN team of investigators found indications that “a steady process of ethnic cleansing is already under way in some parts of the country,” Ms Sooka said.
She said fighting is expected to “begin in earnest” now that the dry season has arrived.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir called for a national dialogue that would attempt to redefine the country’s national identity in a speech to parliament on Wednesday.
Mr Kiir again called for a ceasefire in the civil war but offered few details on how it would work with multiple opposition groups across the country.