[NAS Editorial] Armed elements loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Dr Riek Machar are leading in cases of rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence. This is according to a strongly worded statement by the United Nations Security Council.
Twenty-four (24) cases of gang rape involving the combined forces of Kiir and Machar under the umbrella fictitious name of South Sudan People’s Defence Force. There were also eleven (11) cases of rape, two cases of sexual mutilation, one forced nudity and one attempted rape.
Gen. Simon Ayume, Commander of Yei River area has unequivocally denied the involvement of NAS forces in any allegations of violence against civilians. “We have always remained committed to the principles in the mission statement of our liberation movement especially article seven, which in part, guides us in ending ‘systematic massacre of people, summary executing of people, raping of women and young girls simply because they belong to a particular tribe,” read a statement.
Article nine of the declaration of principles of a recent political union of opposition movements from South Sudan states “empower South Sudanese women and girl-children; and institute effective policies to ensure their participation in all forms of decision making, to end all forms of discrimination and oppressive practices, especially sex and gender-based violence”.
NAS maintains that it has been the policy of the military under the leadership of Kiir for violent crimes against women and children, including sexual violence to go unpunished. “The details of the numbers of abuses in this report speaks for itself. How can a government use sexual violence as a form of warfare against its own citizens?” asked a senior NAS official.
The UNSC report admits that the world is still waiting for the government of Kiir and the leadership of Riek to bring the perpetrators of sexual violence in the militias they lead to account.
“On 29 July, Machar signed a command order instructing three SPLA-IO commanders in Western Equatoria to release all girls present on their bases and all women held against their will,” says the UNSC report. However, UNMISS and the United Nations country team are still waiting for the implementation of this order. Those SPLA-IO officers responsible for the unlawful conscription of girls and women have not been brought to account.
The statement, signed and backed by all 15 members of the council, expressed concern at “the dire humanitarian, human rights and economic situation in South Sudan,” and singled out “the ongoing conflict in the Equatoria region, and continued use of sexual violence as a tactic against the civilian population.”
In the last few months, defensive positions of the National Salvation Front have come under continuous unprovoked military offensives by Kiir’s forces and other tribal militia allied to him.
“Heavy-handed counter-NAS operations have been conducted by the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces and SPLA-IO. Detentions of suspected NAS collaborators by the National Security Service and South Sudan People’s Defence Forces have spanned greater Equatoria, while government and SPLA-IO operations have induced displacement and fear and heightened mistrust of state security forces, as illustrated by the razing of some 60 tukuls in Torit West,” reads the report.
The National Salvation Front (NAS) has maintained its commitment to the 2017 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement but reserves the right to defend itself and civilian populations within South Sudan against unprovoked aggressions of combined militias of Kiir and Machar.
NAS states that civilian populations in areas under their control have been victims of the counter-insurgency military campaigns of both Kiir and Riek armies, who have deliberately targeted civilian populations, especially women, girls, boys and the elderly.
Photo: Joy, 14, fled her village in South Sudan when she was eight months pregnant (Photo by @Simon Edmunds/Save the Children)
CORRECTION: NAS Editorial would like to apologise for a mistake on an earlier edit of this story where a wrong person was named as a NAS senior official. The person named is no longer with NAS and the mistake has been corrected. We apologise for that.