Famine looms in South Sudan. The planting season is already half over, with terrified farmers scattered far from home because of fighting. But the country's leaders seem unconcerned about the impending catastrophe, the United Nations' top human rights official said Wednesday.
In meetings this week with the leaders of feuding political camps, rights chief Navi Pillay called for a 30-day truce to allow people to return and plant crops. Both men, she said, offered the same lukewarm response and the same excuse: They don't trust each other.
"I was appalled by the apparent lack of concern about the risk of famine displayed by both leaders when I raised the issue," Pillay told a news conference in Juba, the capital, after two days of meetings with President Salva Kiir and his rival and former vice president, Riek Machar.
"The prospect of widespread hunger and malnutrition being inflicted on hundreds of thousands of their people, because of their personal failure to resolve their differences peacefully, did not appear to concern them very much," Pillay said.
She called for investigations, arrests and independent prosecutions of those guilty of crimes against humanity, adding that widespread human rights violations had been committed. About 9,000 children have been recruited to fight on both sides of the conflict, according to UNICEF.
Oil production, which accounts for 98% of the country's revenue, has plummeted by 29% since December. Machar loyalists who seized Bentiu threaten Paloch, the most important oil field still operating.
Pillay visited South Sudan with Adama Dieng, U.N. special advisor on the prevention of genocide. Pillay said they warned the country's leaders that future investigations into crimes against humanity would look at whether they failed to prevent mass killings.