The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has reinforced its Human Rights team in Bentiu to help with investigations following a series of brutal sexual attacks on women and girls travelling from their villages to the town of Bentiu in the Unity region of South Sudan.
Over the past two weeks, approximately 125 women and girls had sought medical treatment after having been raped or sexually assaulted in a ten-day period as they walked along roads near Nhialdu and Guit on their way to Bentiu.
That number has now reportedly risen to over 150. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is concerned about this and is out to find a solution.
According to Eugene Nindorera, Human Rights Director, UNMISS,
“The reality of using rape as a weapon of war is there, and there is no need to contest it. What is more important is really to look at what we can do to address this issue. And I think it is good now various parties to the conflict are sitting together so that they can see how together they can find a solution to that situation.”
Reports on the attacks came to light after Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced they had received the women and young girls at their clinic in Bentiu.
It is alleged that the attacks have been carried out by young men in civilian clothing or military uniforms. In addition to being sexually violated, they were brutally beaten and robbed.
UNMISS, which has a ‘Protection of Civilians’ mandate, has deployed daily patrols in the areas where the attacks were reported to have taken place. The Mission is also urging armed forces in the area to guarantee command and control over their troops to ensure rogue elements within their ranks are not involved in these criminal acts.
Paul Ebikwo, Civil Affairs Team Leader, UNMISS said,
“The situation is, to say the least horrendous; it is very, very depressing and, ironically, it is happening during the 16 days of activism.”
South Sudan spiraled into armed conflict at the end of 2013, and after the signing of a brief peace agreement in August 2015, it slid back into another armed conflict in mid-2016. Parties to the bitter, near five-year conflict are currently engaged in pre-transitional arrangements as they seek to implement a peace agreement penned in Addis Ababa in September 2018. If adhered to, the revitalized peace agreement would stifle the environment that allows such criminality as has been reported in Bentiu to flourish-UNMISS