Sexual violence perpetrated by all parties, says Bangura
13 October 2014 - Women’s and children’s bodies were the battleground of conflict in South Sudan, Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura said in a press release today.
“Sexual violence is a consistent characteristic of the conflict and is being perpetrated by all the parties,” said the release, issued at the end of Ms. Bangura’s six-day visit to the country.
The statement noted that sexual violence pre-dated the December 2013 crisis, but had been greatly exacerbated by escalation of the conflict.
“There has been an additional dimension of sexual violence attacks and reprisals on an alarming scale,” said the statement. “There are also grave concerns of sexual violence perpetrated along ethnic lines with attacks fuelling reprisals and a cycle of recrimination and revenge.”
Ms. Bangura, who visited the Unity State capital Bentiu during her six-day visit, described what she witnessed as “the worst I have seen in my almost 30 years of dealing with this issue”.
"This is because of the combination of chronic insecurity, unimaginable living conditions, acute day-to-day protection concerns and rampant sexual violence," she said. “In the words of a woman activist I met: ‘It is not just about rape, it is to inflict unimaginable pain and destruction’.”
The SRSG, who met President Salva Kiir in Juba and opposition leader Riek Machar in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, stressed that the humanitarian cost of the conflict would continue to rise until there was a viable peace agreement. She appealed to parties to stop the violence immediately.
“She reminds parties to the conflict … that they cannot declare war on their own people and ultimately, there must be accountability for these crimes,” the statement said.
During her visit, Ms. Bangura signed an agreement with the government outlining critical priority areas for action.
These include ensuring medical, psychological and legal assistance for victims, addressing impunity, security and justice sector reform, and ensuring that sexual violence crimes are explicitly addressed in the peace process.
“My office and the UN system are committed to helping the government and the people of South Sudan put an end to sexual violence in conflict in the country,” said the UN Envoy. “We stand ready to support them in any way necessary to end the horrible devastation of this crime.”
She expressed concern about lack of services for victims of sexual violence and lack of proper reporting mechanisms due to closure of government officers, malfunctioning police services and social stigma, all contributing to a climate of impunity.
“The international community cannot leave survivors to fend for themselves,” said Ms. Bangura. “Now is the time to step up and help South Sudan put an end to these atrocities.”