UN and AU “solidarity” mission says hope for peace and nation-building remains alive in South Sudan
During its eight months of operation, a clinic at the Juba Teaching Hospital has already received more than 1,300 women and children seeking treatment for injuries and trauma caused by sexual violence.
They are among many more survivors of rape and other abuse perpetrated across South Sudan since the brutal conflict erupted in 2013.
Leading a high-powered “solidarity” mission by the United Nations and African Union to the country, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, shared her deep concern about their suffering with government ministers.
“What has been the worst part of the conflict in this country, and I think here with the delegation, we heard the pain and anguish of many women, is in relation to gender-based violence and, in particular, rape,” said the DSG. “And this rape doesn’t stop just at women, it also includes children to very, very young ages, and that for us has been abhorrent. It is a horror story when you hear it, let alone imagine when you have to go through that.”
The DSG raised the issue of sexual violence with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, as well as the need for a comprehensive peace accord to be signed and concrete steps taken to build confidence to enable investments in development.
The government responded positively to the discussions.
“We reiterate our commitment to peace and upholding the values that we have stood for, the freedom that we have fought for, as the people of South Sudan,” said Ambassador Agnes Oswaha from South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
At a meeting with South Sudan’s Council of Ministers, the UN Special Adviser on Africa expressed concerns raised by women she met during the visit. They lamented their inability to support their families or to return to their homes because of ongoing violence.
“Speaking to the women, seeing them with babies sitting in a camp in their own country, is not a beautiful sight,” Bience Gawanas told the ministers. “You, as the leaders of South Sudan, have got it in your control to give back to the women and children of South Sudan their dignity and humanity. And I am very confident you will be able to do that.”
Ministers responded that they were “tired” of the war which was preventing the implementation of many positive policies to build peace and development.
The women of South Sudan had their own message for the delegation, pleading with them to advocate for their inclusion in the peace process.
“The conflict in South Sudan has gone on for so long, making it difficult to enjoy life and the benefits that come with peace,” said one women’s representative. “Our hope is to leave all that behind and look forward to a prosperous and peaceful South Sudan. Without your support, this will remain nothing but a dream.”
The DSG committed to being a voice for all the people of South Sudan and to work with the international community to ensure that the recently-declared ceasefire will hold so the country can begin its long journey to recovery and nation-building.
“Hope is a commodity of the United Nations. We have to keep that alive. We can never give up on the South Sudanese people,” said the DSG, Amina Mohammed. “That’s why this delegation is here, to constantly remind the world that these problems are not over, they are urgent, and we need to deal with them now. That gives me hope that we are seeing that there is a peace accord that could happen and that is another opportunity for South Sudan to rebirth, and to rebirth in a way that takes concrete steps that includes everyone.”