Residents in Bentiu are calling for action against human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan. Citizens are demanding that perpetrators of such crimes committed during the country’s 5-year civil war be held accountable.
“For us to live in peace, all perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions,” said Nyayuot Yoach, a 35-year-old woman and mother of five children.
“We suffered a lot during the conflict. Many of us were raped by armed groups and killed. Children were recruited by the army,” she added.
Along with fellow citizens, she is appealing to the government of South Sudan and the African Union to establish a court that would prosecute those responsible.
In July, a United Nations human rights report indicated widespread human rights violations and abuses in many parts of the Unity region between April and May of 2018, during the peak of the recent escalations between government and opposition forces that took place at the time.
According to the report, more than 200 civilians were killed, and over a hundred women were raped in the Southern Unity region during this time period.
John Chuol, a 30-year-old farmer residing in Bentiu, said the violence must come to an end.
“For the people of this country to reconcile and unite, there is an urgent need to stop the killing and raping of women,” he said.
As the people of Bentiu are raising their voices on human rights issues, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan is responding with the launch of a human rights forum, involving government officials, organized forces and civil society partners.
“This platform is very important to bring together all relevant human rights actors to discuss challenges facing the people,” said UNMISS Human Rights Officer Zaki Othman during the launch of the forum on Thursday. He explained that concrete solutions will depend on strengthened coordination between the government and the South Sudan’s Peoples Defence Force (SSPDF).
The acting governor of Northern Liech, Lakara Machar, urged members of the armed forces to act in accordance with international humanitarian law.
“Let there be no violation of other’s rights and let there be no violation of our religious freedom. We must respect human rights principles,” he said.
Heeding the calls of the local population, the UNMISS-led forum will engage with stakeholders on a monthly basis to enable the exchange of information related to human rights violations and abuses and to propose solutions for the protection of civilians. Another objective is to ensure that the state government and SSPDF leadership provide institutional responses to put an end to the human rights related crimes.