South Sudan massacre ‘must be investigated’

Norway has called for an investigation into the massacre of some 200 civilians in the disputed South Sudanese town of Bentiu, declaring that "the guilty must be punished".

South Sudan massacre 'must be investigated'
Børge Brende - Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix
After rebel forces took control of the oil town last Tuesday, they killed hundreds of civilians after they had determined their ethnicity, according to a report from US peacekeepers on the ground. 
"Norway strongly condemns the massacres in southern Sudan," Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende said. "This must be investigated and the guilty must be punished. 
"Women, men and children were slaughtered in large numbers, even in hospitals and religious buildings," he added. "I repeat that both parties to the conflict have a responsibility to stop the violence and resolve their differences through politics and not by killing civilians to spread terror and unrest." 
According to a UN report, Nuer rebels broke into a mosque in the town on Tuesday and slaughtered some 200 people inside.
They also murdered civilians sheltering in a Roman Catholic Church and in a hospital.  
The United Nations mission in South Sudan has condemned the attacks as "the targeted killings of civilians based on their ethnic origins and nationality".
"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", according to a UN statement. 
Rebel leader Riek Machar on Tuesday said that his focus were not behind the massacre. 
"I contacted the field military commander in Bentiu who told me that such accusation is false," he told Al Jazeera. "First of all we respect our people, and the majority of the forces are from the region and we can't kill our own citizens." 
Machar, the  leader of South Sudan's Nuer people, was the country's vice President until his dismissal last July. 
Since a failed coup d'etat against South Sudan's president Salva Kiir last December, Machar has been described as the leader of the rebels in the country.  

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Norway to blame for South Sudan war: AU

The African Union has blamed Norway for the civil war which broke out in South Sudan at the end of 2013, arguing that the country had inadvertently created "a politically unchallenged armed power" when it brokered the 2005 peace deal with Sudan.

Norway to blame for South Sudan war: AU
Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende after talks with President Salva Kiir in May 2014. Photo: Astrid Sehl / Foreign Affairs / NTB scanpix
The accusation, made in an as yet unpublished African Union inquiry leaked to the Reuters newswire, calls for the oil-rich nation to be placed under the direct control of the AU in an effort to end the war. 
According the report Norway, the US and the UK, the three countries who pushed for the deal had “ushered in an unaccountable political class” in the country, leading to the conditions which spilt the country's leadership apart eight years later. 
The civil war in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, started in December 2013 when the governing party SPLM split into two factions headed respectively by President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar.
At least 10,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million people displaced. The UN accuses both sides of grave human rights violations, including widespread rape, executions, and ethnic-based massacres.
According to the AU report, Norway facilitated Kiir and Machar’s ascent to power when they helped broker the peace deal between SPLM/A rebels and the Sudanese government in 2005.
The settlement brought long-time guerrilla fighters to formal recognition, paving the way for them forming government when South Sudan became independent in in January 2011.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende has not yet commented on the accusations, but called for the report to be made public immediately.
“I think that the investigation that the African Union has started and the commission’s position, it needs to be made public. “ he told Urix, a foreign affairs programme aired by public broadcaster NRK
The African Union has shelved the report on the request of Salva Kiir and Reik Machar. There are fears that its release could disrupt on-going peace negotiations in the Ethiopian capital Addis-Abeba. Despite a truce signed by Kiir and Machar, fighting has continued while peace talks carry on.