Source: Xinhua|Editor: xuxin

JUBA, June 6 (Xinhua) — South Sudan on Thursday denied accusations by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that government troops committed atrocities against civilians in the country’s southern region of Yei River state.

Government spokesman Michael Makuei said the HRW report was meant to tarnish the name of the government at a time when the country is implementing the September 2018 peace deal.

“This report was written in order to tarnish the image of the government of South Sudan and the army in particular,” Makuei said. “This is not true and there is nothing as such.”

The HRW report, released on Tuesday, accuses South Sudanese soldiers of carrying out extensive abuses against civilians during counter-insurgency operations between December 2018 and last March.

The report alleged that government soldiers raped civilians, looted property, burned houses, and evicted thousands of residents from their homes in Otogo and Mukaya areas during an operation against a rebel group, the National Salvation Front.

Military spokesman Lul Ruai Koang also dismissed the report, saying the government ceased fighting rebels since signing of the peace deal last year.

“We have never gone on offensive or counter-operation during the time they indicated in their report,” Koang said. “If there were crimes that were committed, they should have been committed by the rebels who are roaming in the forests of Yei River state.”

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013 and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The United Nations estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese were displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 collapsed following renewed violence in the capital Juba in July 2016.

Under the September 2018 peace agreement, opposition leader Riek Machar, together with four others, will be reinstated as vice president of South Sudan.

On May 3, signatories to the latest peace deal agreed to extend the formation of a transitional government by six months, following delays in the implementation of the pact over unresolved security issues.

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