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South Sudan, Central African Republic to Face War Crimes Audit

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Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- African leaders ordered a committee to probe crimes such as murder and sexual violence committed in strife-torn South Sudan and Central African Republic, where the humanitarian crises are mounting.

Heads of state from the 12-member International Conference on the Great Lakes Region who met in the Angolan capital of Luanda yesterday directed its committee on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to “audit” the countries, according to an e-mailed final communique.

The group is “deeply concerned with the recent outbreak of violence and worsening security and humanitarian situations in the Republic of South Sudan and Central African Republic that have resulted in the death, displacement and disruption of livelihoods of thousands of populations,” it said.

In South Sudan, violence erupted on Dec. 15 after President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar, who was fired in July, of trying to stage a coup. He denies the charge.

The dispute escalated into clashes between members of Kiir’s ethnic Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer group. The death toll from the fighting is approaching 10,000, according to the International Crisis Group, while the United Nations says at least 395,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. Internationally-mediated peace talks Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, are progressing slowly.

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Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia resigned on Jan. 10 after failing to halt inter-religious violence that intensified early last month, leaving at least 1,000 people dead and displacing a quarter of the population. About 1,600 troops sent by France, the former colonial power, and more than 3,600 African Union peacekeepers were unable to impose order. A new leader is set to be named this month.

The ICGLR has requested the African Union and its partners to increase resources and logistical support for the peacekeeping mission in the country, according to the communique. The U.S. military is airlifting 850 Rwandan soldiers today to help step up efforts to stabilize the nation.

ICGLR’s members are Angola, Uganda, Burundi, Congo Republic, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo.

At yesterday’s meeting, Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos became rotating chair of the body for a two-year period, taking over from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Ombok in Nairobi at eombok@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at shajimathew@bloomberg.net