SOUTH Sudanese security officers arrested 16 members of an advance rebel team in the capital Juba, a spokesman said, about a week before the insurgents’ leader, Riek Machar, is due to return to the city.
The men were seized Tuesday while gathering to welcome a deputy rebel chairman to Juba, spokesman William Ezekiel said by phone from the city.
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the 16 were arrested for moving around Juba without coordinating with security personnel.
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Machar has said he’ll travel to the city on April 18 to assume the role of vice president in a transitional government led by President Salva Kiir.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million have been displaced since conflict erupted in the oil-producing nation in December 2013.
— April 15, 2016 The scale of sexualized violence in South Sudan has been described by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as “shocking.” In a March report, the office counted more than 1,300 rapes in just five months in 2015 in a single area of the country, Unity State.
And this number, according to OHCHR, is only “a snapshot” of the real total, with women and girls being considered “a commodity” by soldiers—reportedly groups allied with the government are being given the go-ahead to rape women “in lieu of wages.” The majority of perpetrators, according to OHCHR, are government forces.
Lauren Wolfe: We’ve heard a lot about rape in Sudan and South Sudan over the years, but I wonder if this is something new, or whether sexualized violence has a long history of being used as a weapon of war there.
Amanda Sperber: I spoke to some analysts who say rape has been a weapon of war in the Sudans forever, but then I spoke to other people who said that a fight used to mean a fight between two men, not an attack on women, and now it’s sort of changed to this sort of ghastly level of violence.
There have been so many decades of war that now they’re finding new ways to hurt each other.
LW: What are the conditions like for refugees where you reported? The World Food Program has a presence and there are a few NGOs but there’s no UNMISS [United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan] protection.
“This is one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world, with massive use of rape as an instrument of terror and weapon of war,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “yet it has been more or less off the international radar.” Sadly, less than two years after South Sudan voted to become its own country, separate from Sudan, fighting has swallowed the young nation.
Partly due to ethnic tensions between the historically unfriendly Dinka and Nuer tribes, partly because of individual political power grabs, the war has left more than 50,000 dead, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, and 1.6 million internally displaced, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
With so many crimes—mass rape, burning of whole villages—being committed, “there are reasonable grounds to believe the violations may amount to war crimes and/or crimes against humanity,” said OHCHR.