Vowing to “fight” to the end to see that all perpetrators of rape and violence against women and girls in crisis-torn South Sudan are held to account, the United Nations envoy on sexual violence in conflict today said it is extremely important for the Government to take all necessary action to put an end to such crimes.
In an interview with UN Radio Miraya, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict, said she is “very angry and very disappointed” that after several round of meetings with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar and in the wake of the communiques signed in 2014 by the two leaders on commitments to end and prevent sexual assaults, such crimes are still being committed.
“I am an African woman and I have seen how these women have suffered. They suffered through a [years-long] civil war. Then they celebrated, for the first time in their lives, after the country achieved independence, only to have their hopes and expectations shattered,” when the country subsequently plunged back into war, she said.
Having long deplored sexual violence crimes as a “brutal feature” in the South Sudan conflict, which initially broke out in December 2013 when a political face-off between President Kiir and Mr. Machar boiled over, Ms. Bangura said she has been particularly angered by the new allegations that surfaced in the aftermath of the latest clashes between the rivals and their respective factions.
According to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, a preliminary UN investigation into the recent fighting and its aftermath revealed that Government security forces carried out killings and rapes, and looted and destroyed properties. At least 217 cases of sexual violence were documented in the capital, Juba, between 8 and 25 July.
Ms. Bangura expressed her profound sympathy for the civilians and said: “All action should be taken by the Government to put an end to this. The first obligation for any government is protecting its own citizens; children can't go to school; people can't go to work; women can't get water – they cannot do anything without peace.”
“These are their people. If you don't protect your own people, you're actually inviting the international community to come provide protection for your own citizens,” she continued, stressing that the United Nations will do all it can to ensure that victims of rape receive adequate care, assistance and support and to put a relevant mechanism in place.
“But for me, one thing I will fight for until I leave the UN is to make sure all the people who are committing these crimes in South Sudan are held accountable. The women and children of South Sudan do not deserve [to be treated like] this,” said Ms. Bangura.
Indeed, she continued: “Those who think they will get off 'scot-free' must be joking because we will go after them. It doesn't matter who they are or where they are. We will go after them and hold them accountable for these crimes.”