South Sudan risks being plunged back into full-scale conflict if hardliners are allowed to sabotage last year's peace agreement, a group of UN experts has warned.
"South Sudan’s political elites are strangely able to live oblivious to the intense suffering of millions of their own people," said Yasmin Sooka, chairperson of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
In a statement to a session of the UN Human Rights Council, she said that she and her colleagues had recently returned from a trip to South Sudan, where they found that most citizens went hungry every day.
"The starvation in South Sudan is neither random, nor accidental. It has been part of a deliberate strategy on the part of the warring parties to target civilians in acts that may amount to war crimes... There is no doubt that the responsibility for the enduring humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan rests firmly with the country's warring politicians."
She said that the commission welcomed a recent meeting between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, who committed to comply with a November deadline to set up a unity government.
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (R) shake hands with Riek Machar (L) in Juba, South Sudan - 11 September 2019
The UN experts welcomed a recent meeting between President Kiir (R) and his rival Mr Machar (L)
But Ms Sooka added that there were still hardliners who were unwilling to compromise on key issues such as "the number of states, their boundaries, and security arrangements".
These people "might sabotage progress towards implementation of the agreement", she said.
Ms Sooka urged members of the council to pressure the leaders of South Sudan, where nearly four million people have fled their homes since the civil war began in 2013, to ensure the unity government was established.
One of the next steps to be considered should be reparations for the many victims of the conflict, she said.
The UN expert suggested that 1% of Sudan's annual oil revenues be placed in a reparations and compensation fund "instead of being diverted for personal benefit by political elites as has been reported".
"Member States of the African Union and the United Nations have the power to make this happen."