JUBA: Violence and rights abuses are on the rise in South Sudan as a new deadline approaches for the country’s two rival factions to form a power-sharing government under a peace deal, a UN commission said on Friday. President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, who fought a civil war in 2013, signed a peace accord two years ago but missed two deadlines to form a government. South Sudan won independence in 2011, but its territory was subsequently divided into 32 states, a major source of tensions as the factions squabble over state borders.

The two factions are expected to form the new government by February 22. The UN said localized conflicts were on the rise as tensions spill into violence over the failure to fully implement the peace agreement and its security arrangements. “We have noted an upsurge in incidents of armed conflict particularly in Yei,” Andrew Clapham, one of three members of the UN rights commission for South Sudan, referring the southwest city.

He said fighting between rebel groups holding out against the peace deal and government forces was creating instability, forcing the displacement of civilians. Another sticking point has been security, such as training and uniting rebel and government troops into a single army. Troops and rebels are supposed to be screened, trained and unified in a single force at so-called “cantonment” camps. But the program has faced logistical hurdles.

The UN commission said the government has failed to release half the funds promised for the program. “We are extremely concerned to learn there has been no response to these challenges from the government,” Clapham said. The UN rights commission also noted attacks on freedom of expression and on rights activists. It said women from civil society groups were also being harassed by security forces. War broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 after a dispute between Kiir and Machar sparked ethnic clashes and brutal violence, leaving almost 400,000 dead. – AFP