British official: South Sudan war has escalated into tribal genocide

South Sudan’s civil war has escalated into genocide, as violence in the world’s youngest nation is now perpetrated along tribal lines, a senior British official said, urging African leaders to do more to end the conflict in the country.

Priti Patel, the U.K. secretary of state for international development , said there are “massacres taking place, people’s throats being slit” amid what she called a “scorched earth policy” in South Sudan’s three-year war.

The Associated Press reports her to say, “It’s tribal, it’s absolutely tribal, so on that basis it’s genocide.”

Patel spoke after visiting South Sudan, where she met President Salva Kiir, whose government repeatedly has been accused of blocking food aid to some areas and harassing aid workers.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 following President Salva Kiir’s allegations that his then-deputy Riek Machar was plotting a coup against his government. Machar denied the allegations but then went on to mobilize a rebel force to fight the government.

A UN-backed peace deal signed in 2015 has continually been violated by both factions, with the UN warning earlier this year of a possible genocide.

Patel asked the African Union to do more to end the violence there.

“This is about international pressure,” Patel said. “Where is the voice of the African Union? This is an African Union that was created to give strength to Africa. Where is that voice? Why are they not standing up for the people that are being massacred over the border who are their fellow African brothers and sisters?”

Thousands of people have been killed in the war, with over 1.5 million others fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety.

Rebel leader Riek Machar is now living in exile in South Africa, where he went to seek medical treatment but has not been able to return to his country.

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