South Sudan’s army (SPLA) and its allied militias in Unity State raped or abducted at least 251 women during their latest military offensive of April-May this year, according to a human rights report released today by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Some of the women were allegedly burnt alive in their dwellings after being raped. Dozens of babies and children were also killed.
The total number of civilians killed is not known, and UNMISS was unable to interview survivors in many remote areas. But from the 115 victims and eyewitnesses interviewed by UNMISS staff, the peacekeeping mission determined that at least 67 civilians were killed.
The UN report says the brutality of these crimes “points to the further ethnicization of the conflict.”
“According to testimonies from Unity, at least 172 women and girls have been abducted, while at least an additional 79 were subjected to sexual violence including gang-rape. For example, a survivor from Koch County narrated to HRD [UNMISS Human Rights Division] how she was dragged out of her tukul and gang-raped alongside her neighbour by government soldiers in front of her three-year old child,” reads the report.
“The soldiers then taunted them that they would appreciate what men from Mayom County were made of. In another instance, a witness from Rubkona County narrated that she saw government forces gang-raping a lactating mother after tossing her baby aside.”
“While in another case, two witnesses from Nhialdiu narrated how a 17-year-old girl was gang-raped by armed militia who shot her dead.”
“In at least nine separate incidents, women and girls were burnt in tukuls after being gang-raped, particularly in Boaw Village of Koch County. In at least five villages in Rubkona, Guit and Koch counties, women and girls were shot and killed after they were subjected to gang-rape.”
A copy of the UNMISS report was given to South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ten days before its release, but government officials have yet to comment on its findings.
UNMISS said the forces that perpetrated these crimes were led by government generals and civilian officials. For example, “Attacks in Guit and Koch counties were carried out by government forces and armed youths led by two SPLA brigadier generals from the integrated SSLA and a senior county official for Koch County, according to witness testimonies.”
“In each of the attacks, the government forces were identified by their uniforms, insignia, tribal marks, language and known acquaintances,” the report notes.