GENEVA – South Sudanese civilians are caught in a perfect storm of ongoing suffering and misery. The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan reports the country’s humanitarian crisis is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and floods, as well as the highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in a decade. This, on top of escalating violence and rampant human rights violations.
Commission Chair Yasmin Sooka says in one of the regions most at risk, Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, nearly two million people are kept in thrall by tens of thousands of well-armed fighters.
She said boys are abducted and forced to fight, and militia groups have razed entire villages, and murdered or displaced thousands of civilians.
“All of the warring groups target women and girls, using them as chattels, and treating them as the “spoils of war,” she said. “Last year, hundreds of women and girls were abducted, they were raped and gang-raped, and sexually enslaved or forcibly married off.”
Sooka said crimes of a similar magnitude and horror are occurring throughout the country. The conflict in Central Equatoria is driven by competition for territory and access to lucrative gold mines, she said, while competition over land and cattle is fueling the violence at the local community level.
She noted that hardly any of the provisions of the 2018 Peace Agreement have been implemented despite the formation of the revitalized government in February of last year. Nor have the Hybrid Court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission been established.
Sooka said the lack of accountability for gross human rights violations entrenches impunity, builds resentment and deepens ethnic divisions and violence.
“The commission therefore urges the government as a sign of good faith to sign without further delay, the memorandum of understanding with the African Union, which will pave the way for the Hybrid Court and the other transitional justice mechanisms to be established,” she said.
South Sudanese Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ruben Madol Aroi doesn’t deny the problems facing his country but said the government has been putting measures in place to promote human rights. He downplayed the extent of violence, saying the security situation is calm despite some sporadic intercommunal clashes in parts of the country.
Aroi said a gender-based violence court has been established and perpetrators have been convicted, and a resolution has been signed to start the process of establishing three transitional justice institutions.
Source: Voice of America