UN warns South Sudan over alleged crimes against humanity

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon has warned warring factions in South Sudan that reports of crimes against humanity will be investigated, as eyewitnesses spoke of a wave of brutal ethnic killings.

Ban asked the Security Council to nearly double the size of the UN mission in the country, which has been hit by escalating battles between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing his rival Riek Machar, a former vice president who was sacked in July.

With fighting ongoing, badly overstretched UN bases in the capital Juba and across the country have been flooded with at least 45,000 civilians, some of whom have recounted an orchestrated campaign of mass killings and rape by government forces.

The official toll is 500 dead, although the real figure is believed to be far higher, aid workers say. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled to the countryside, prompting warnings of an imminent humanitarian disaster.

Fighting has spread to half of the young nation’s 10 states, the UN said on December 24.

Rebel fighters are also reported to have committed atrocities in areas they control, as the oil-rich but impoverished nation, which won independence from Sudan to much fanfare just two years ago, appeared to be sliding deeper into civil war.

‘The world is watching all sides in South Sudan,’ Ban told reporters ahead of emergency Security Council talks on the crisis.