U.N. warns of rising hate speech in South Sudan

The U.N. Human Rights Chief has warned that ethnic rhetoric and hate speech has become highly dangerous in South Sudan and could result in violence if not stopped.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that graphic warnings against people in the Equatoria region have spread, resulting in an attack on a humanitarian staff member and evacuation of over 100 other officials.

“Hateful ethnic rhetoric in South Sudan – particularly if it is exploited for political purposes – can have devastating consequences for entire communities, quickly spiralling into a cycle of revenge attacks,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “I urge President Salva Kiir and all political and community leaders with influence to urgently and unambiguously condemn the incitement to violence and to take urgent measures to defuse the tensions.”

On October 19th, President Salva Kiir alluded to the fact that the military is mostly made up of one ethnicity, and said he would personally lead military operations in the Equatoria’s.

“The statement has widely been interpreted as ethnically driven,” the U.N. said in a statement.

Zeid also called for accountability for those who perpetrated an attack on civilians traveling from Yei to Juba on October 8th.

“One important step would be to promptly and transparently investigate the violence of 8 and 10 October, and to hold perpetrators individually criminally responsible,” Zeid added. “Those who are behind these terrible threats against Equatorians must also be held to account.”