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South Sudan govt. troops blamed for torching village homes: Report

A child collects water from a water point in Juba, South Sudan, March 21, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

South Sudan’s government troops destroyed thousands of homes in late 2016 as a three-year civil war continues in the country.

Monitors of the country's troubled peace agreement said on Friday that three villages in the southern region of Yei visited by investigators had been evacuated from inhabitants and burned down.

The shaky peace deal was reached in 2015 between the government and rebel forces.

"In most cases the buildings were deliberately set on fire by government forces," the report said.

Government officials claimed rebel fighters as well as wildfires were to blame for the destruction, the report said.

Yei had become the target of government forces after clashes broke out in the capital, Juba, in July 2016, reigniting fighting across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of people living in and around Yei have fled to neighboring Uganda, which has warned that the number of refugees is significantly going up.

Jonathan Pedneault, a researcher on South Sudan at Human Rights Watch, said it was "high time" that President Salva Kiir and his commanders were held accountable "for these outrageous, well-documented and repeated breaches of international law".

A separate report by international peace monitors said both government forces and rebel fighters were preying on civilians in the southern part of the country.

In related news, the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) reiterated on Friday an earlier warning issued by the United Nations that drought and economic collapse caused by the ongoing armed conflict in South Sudan had increased the risk of famine in the world’s youngest country.

The FSIN report added that global food crises worsened significantly in 2016 and conditions look set to deteriorate further this year in some areas of the world.

"There is a high risk of famine in some areas of north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen,” it said.

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