World and Nation

Shorts (left)

U.N. report documents atrocities in South Sudan war

Both sides in the South Sudan civil war have committed crimes against humanity including arbitrary killings, mass rapes and other sexual violence, systematic pillaging and attacks on churches, hospitals and international aid facilities, the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan said Thursday in its most detailed report on the conflict.

The 61-page report by the peacekeeping mission’s human rights division, along with an equally sobering Amnesty International account of the war that has upended the young country over the past half year, came as preparations were underway for talks between President Salva Kiir and his chief antagonist, the rebel leader Riek Machar, in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Violence has continued to rage in South Sudan, with more than 1 million people displaced, and the U.N. has warned that famine threatens much of the country in a humanitarian disaster that eclipses Syria’s in scope.

The peacekeeping mission’s report, which was based on interviews with more than 900 victims and witnesses, detailed paroxysms of violence that began in the capital, Juba, on Dec. 15, and spread elsewhere, basically splitting along ethnic lines between the Dinka tribe of Kiir and the Nuer tribe of Machar.

The report said that “from the very outset of the violence, gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law have occurred on a massive scale.”

Based on the mission’s human rights division documentation, it said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed by both parties to the conflict.”

—Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

Ad agency giants are said to call off $35 billion merger

Omnicom Group and Publicis have called off their $35 billion merger, bringing a premature end to a deal that would have created the largest advertising company in the world, according to people briefed on the matter.

A mix of clashing personalities, disagreements over how the companies would be integrated and complications over legal and tax issues derailed the deal nine months after it was announced.

The boards of both companies met Thursday to finalize the decision, which brings to an end an ambitious union between two companies.

Omnicom, based in New York and led by John D. Wren, grew through acquisitions and came to dominate Madison Avenue with a family of agencies including BBDO, TBWA and DDB.

Publicis, based in Paris and led by Maurice Lévy, owns Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi. Both Wren and Lévy are strong-willed, and people close to the deal said that their personalities clashed. At the time the deal was announced, the companies agreed that both men would be co-chief executives to start, and that after 30 months, Wren, who is 60, would become sole chief executive while Lévy, 71, would become nonexecutive chairman.

But by February, Wren was signaling that the deal could be in jeopardy

“This transaction is highly complex and is taking longer than we originally expected,” Wren said while discussing fourth-quarter earnings with analysts.

Both companies have spent nearly a year preparing for the merger, leaving teams at both companies distracted, according to people briefed on the matter. The impending deal also created an opening for Omnicom and Publicis rivals. In recent months, WPP, the other big advertising group, has poached several big accounts from both Omnicom and Publicis.

Many of the world’s biggest corporate clients would have also then been served by the same operating company. AT&T, Visa and Pepsi are Omnicom clients, while McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart work with Publicis.

—David Gelles, The New York Times