South Sudanese committed 'crimes against humanity'

South Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier patrols in Malakal on 21 January 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rebel and government forces have been fighting since December in the world's newest state

Both sides in South Sudan's conflict have committed crimes against humanity, including mass killings, sexual slavery and gang-rape, a UN report says.

The "widespread and systematic" atrocities were carried out in homes, hospitals, mosques, churches and UN compounds, it added.

The report called for those responsible to be held accountable.

Fighting between government and rebel forces broke out in December, leaving more than a million homeless.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir accused his sacked deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of people are living in refugee camps

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then marshalled a rebel army to fight the government.

The battle assumed ethnic overtones, with Mr Machar relying heavily on fighters from his Nuer ethnic group and Mr Kiir from his Dinka community.

Mr Machar is due to arrive shortly in Ethiopia for talks with Mr Kiir, rebel spokesman James Gatdet Dak said, Reuters news agency reports.

The two leaders are due to meet on Friday - their first contact since the conflict erupted.

Mr Kiir and Mr Machar have come under intense diplomatic pressure from the UN and US to end the conflict.

Regional mediators have been trying to broker a peace deal between the two sides in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

They agreed that a truce - described as "30 days of tranquillity" - would come into effect on Wednesday in an effort to re-establish an ineffective ceasefire deal that was signed in January.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in the capital, Juba, says the report by the UN mission in South Sudan is a hard-hitting catalogue of atrocities, based on interviews with 900 people.

It describes how, when the conflict erupted, security forces in Juba went from house to house rounding up and killing men from a particular ethnic group.

Tit-for-tat revenge attacks then spread across the country, the report says.

There is page after page outlining mass killings, rapes and gang-rapes and the targeting of civilians on ethnic grounds, our correspondent adds.

The UN has about 8,500 peacekeepers in South Sudan, which became the world's newest state after seceding from Sudan in 2011.

However, they have struggled to contain the conflict, and the government has accused the UN mission of siding with the rebels.

It denies the allegation.

Image caption Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
Image caption Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Image caption Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Image caption The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Image caption After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Image caption Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Image caption Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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