Editor's Note: This article orginially appeared on Sudan Tribune.
A group of pro-South Sudan activists in the United States have released a letter sent to president Salva Kiir and other senior officials in Juba expressing concern over what they described as "increasingly perilous fate" of the new state which came to life in July 2011 after voting almost unanimously to gain independence from Sudan.
The letter signed by former U.S. State Department special envoy to Sudan Roger Winter, Sudan researcher Professor Eric Reeves, Co-Founder of Enough project John Prendergast and former congressional aide Ted Dagne said that they concluded that "without significant changes and reform" South Sudan "may slide toward instability, conflict and a protracted governance crisis"
"As friends, it is our responsibility to express our serious concerns directly and to offer constructive suggestions for the way forward".
The group, which has been one of earliest supporters of rebellion waged by southern Sudanese against Khartoum decades ago, accused Juba security forces of conducting "a campaign of violence again civilians simply because they belonged to a different ethnic group or they are viewed as opponents of the current government".
"This violence is shocking and has included rape, murder, theft, and destruction of property. We are particularly concerned about the evidence emerging of abuses by government forces in Jonglei. These terrible crimes occur because government forces believe they have the power to act with impunity," said the letter seen by Sudan Tribune.
"[T]hese atrocities are not isolated incidents but among many deliberate measures taken by soldiers on the instruction of senior commanders and government officials. Some may argue that the failure here lies in the chain of command, but the evidence makes clear that these orders are indeed coming from senior commanders," the group said.
A report by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) last March said that it investigated a series of reported grave human rights violations "which forewarn of a deterioration in the overall human rights situation".
South Sudan’s Jonglei state in particular has seen escalating levels of violence amid growing reports of human rights abuses against civilians caught up in the middle of fighting between South Sudan army and rebel group of David Yau.
In April, President Kiir said he would punish ill-disciplined members of the security forces engaged in acts of violence against civilians in Jonglei and also those who gave the orders.
The international medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), in a statement last month, accused South Sudan government of blocking them from providing aid to approximately 120,000 people hiding in the bushes.
Gunmen ambushed and killed five UNMISS peacekeepers and seven civilian staff last April in Jonglei.
The letter by the four pro-South Sudan activists also noted the lack of justice in crimes committed across the country and impunity enjoyed by some South Sudanese officials.
"Many attacks against civilians, including the killing of foreign businessmen, a teacher from Kenya, South Sudanese journalists, and many others, have gone unpunished. We have authoritative reports that government security forces have abused those who allow themselves and their cars to be searched. Many people, including government officials, have faced harassment and have been beaten up by security forces. Again, no one has been held accountable. This inevitably creates a climate of impunity" they said.
Photo: (L-R) John Prendergast, Eric Reeves, Brian D’Silva, Ted Dagne and Roger Miller (Enough Project)