On July 11, South Sudanese forces beat opposition forces to take over the capital, Juba, of the youngest country on earth. To celebrate, they went on a rampage of brutality and sexual violence, infiltrating displacement camps in Juba and taking advantage of many of the local women stationed there.
“They shot dead a local journalist while forcing the foreigners to watch, raped several foreign women, singled out Americans, beat and robbed people and carried out mock executions, several witnesses told The Associated Press.”
Just a few minutes drive away, U.N. peacekeeping forces were stationed with the responsibility to prevent harm to civilians. But these forces did not fulfill their responsibilities. Instead, they refused repeated calls for help as “an unknown number” of South Sudanese women were raped. AP interviewed eight foreigners who survived the rampage. Three said they had been raped, the other five were beaten, and one was even shot.
“The accounts highlight, in raw detail, the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force to uphold its core mandate of protecting civilians, notably those just a few minutes’ drive away,” the AP reported. “U.N. peacekeepers in Juba have already been accused of not acting to stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.’s main camp and within their sight last month.”
The South Sudan is the world’s youngest country and after splitting from Sudan in 2011 has been embroiled in an on-again-off-again civil war between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and opposition forces belonging to Vice President Riek Machar. Now, 160,000 vulnerable civilians are living in displacement camps where they have been subject to severe violence.
Just over a week ago, the Washington Post reported on an internal U.N. investigation that “concluded that peacekeepers made major errors that contributed to, and exacerbated, [a Feb. 17] massacre” that left dozens dead.
A “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage” were reasons listed by the report, and witnesses of the July 11 violence seem to accuse the peacekeepers of the same shortcomings.
The United States proposed an additional 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers be stationed in South Sudan to help with the current mission earlier this month. The current mission includes 12,000 peacekeepers who have been repeatedly criticized for failing to stop sexual violence against South Sudanese women. The majority of the violence also seems to stem from the government troops of President Salva Kiir.
“Of 217 cases of sexual violence in the capital, Juba, recorded by the UN between July 8 and 25, ‘those most affected were displaced Nuer women and girls and those responsible seem to have been mostly SPLA [government troops,]” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said earlier this month.