The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is acting to stop a troubling trend in sexual attacks on women and girls travelling from villages to the town of Bentiu in the Unity region of the country.
Approximately 125 women and girls have sought medical treatment after having been raped or sexually assaulted in just a recent 10-day period. The attacks occurred as they walked along roads near Nhialdu and Guit, and were caused by young men in both military and civilian clothing.
In addition to being sexually violated, they were brutally beaten and robbed, the UN mission said in its statement.
“These attacks on vulnerable civilians are absolutely abhorrent and must stop,” said David Shearer, the UNMISS chief and Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG). “The violent assaults happened in a Government-controlled area and it has primary responsibility for the safety of civilians.”
UNMISS said it has pressed the authorities to take immediate action in both protecting women and girls, and holding accountable those who commit the attacks. They’re also insisting that military leaders guarantee control over any rogue elements.
“UNMISS peacekeepers have immediately sent patrols to the area to provide a protective presence and our human rights team has launched an investigation to identify the perpetrators,” Shearer said. “UNMISS engineers are also clearing foliage from the sides of the road so attackers find it harder to conceal their presence.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres also condemned the attacks, calling them a “distressing reminder of how, despite recent recommitments by South Sudan’s leaders to a cessation of hostilities and a revitalized peace agreement, the security situation for civilians remains dire, especially for women and children.”
Image: UNMISS file