June 19, 2018 (JUBA) – All the warring parties involved in the conflict in South Sudan must immediately halt using sexual violence as a tactic of war, which is happening on an appalling scale in the country and with impunity, various European heads of missions said Tuesday.
- President Salva Kiir addresses the nation at the South Sudan National Parliament in Juba, November 18, 2015. (Photo Reuters/Jok Solomon)
The message was contained in a statement jointly issued by the Heads of Mission of Canada, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Britain and the United States (US).
“The use of sexual violence as a tactic of war is totally abhorrent, and sadly continues today unabated. We are shocked by the recent rape and gang-rape of over one hundred women and girls, some as young as four years-old, according to a number of reports,” partly reads the joint statement.
It added, “We condemn in the strongest terms these heinous acts and support the UN’s [United Nations] call for the immediate end to attacks against civilians.
Expressing their solidarity with the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, the various head of missions also recalled the ongoing plight of the many civilians affected by violence in South Sudan.
“We are horrified by brutal attacks around Leer and Mayendit in Unity State, as well as in Equatoria. Since the start of 2018, and despite the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) and ongoing peace process, we have witnessed the deliberate targeting and killing of civilians, including children, disabled people and the elderly; with some civilians being burned alive in their homes; abductions and mass displacement of populations; and attacks on medical and humanitarian personnel and facilities,” further noted the statement.
Fighting broke out in South Sudan in 2013 after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) sacked his deputy, Riek Machar (a Nuer), pitting the country’s two largest ethnic groups against each other in a deadly struggle for supremacy. Since then fighting has taken place across multiple fronts, as rebel groups have spread across Africa’s youngest nation.
According to UN humanitarian affairs agency (OCHA), conflict and insecurity have now forcibly displaced 1 in 3 of the country’s population, either within South Sudan or across borders. As such, however, the UN has projected that the number of refugees could cross the 3 million mark by the end of this year, making South Sudan Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwanda genocide.