War on Civilians in South Sudan

In 2011, after decades of conflicts, South Sudan was born. Despite the fact of being the most recent country in the world, South Sudan already has a tremendous record...
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 and released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), civilians fleeing violence seek refuge at the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, in South Sudan. Less than three years after its creation, the world's newest country is beginning to fracture along ethnic lines in violence that has killed hundreds of people and what could come next, some warn, is ethnic cleansing. (AP Photo/UNMISS, Hailemichael Gebrekrstos)

In 2011, after decades of conflicts, South Sudan was born. Despite the fact of being the most recent country in the world, South Sudan already has a tremendous record of war and violence. The country’s current conflict that began in December 2013 is marked by thousands of civilian deaths, which in most cases are motivated on ethnical or political reasons. But death isn’t the only consequence of war which is also greatly marked by numerous human rights violations and war crimes in which no child, women or men is safe.

Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released the report “They Burned It All” Destruction of Villages, Killings, and Sexual Violence in Unity State, South Sudan which exposed the horrific truth about the everyday reality of South Sudanese population.  The document highlights the unlawful killing of civilians including women and children who in some cases are shot or even burned alive as a mean to instigate fear. Additionally, the government forces are also reported to have intentionally shattered food sources, condemning civilians to starvation and forced displacement.

Moreover, countless women and girls have been raped and forced to marry soldiers in what can be called a physical and psychological terror. In fact, some critics have emerged from the HRW about the fact that the United Nations (UN) isn’t doing enough to protect women and girls, who disproportionately suffer from the current conflict in the country. In fact, it can be said that rape has been normalized in South Sudan, which shouldn’t happened anywhere.

Women and girls are bearing the brunt of this brutal offensive as fighters target them for rape, abduction, beatings, and forced labor, […] Brutal attacks on fleeing civilians combined with widespread burning of villages, food, and other items that people need to survive suggests that the government’s aim was to forcibly displace people from their homes. ( Daniel Bekele, HRW Africa director)

Civilians’ testimonies also show that government forces attack villagers, raping and abducting girls and boys, killing children, beating elderly, stealing food and burning homes

I was with my neighbor when they asked her whether her baby was a boy or a girl. When she said ‘boy’ they told her that they were going to kill the baby because ‘when he grows up he will fight with us so I have to kill him before that happens.’ They shot the boy in front of the mother. (Women testimony in HRW Report 2015)

Moreover, the South Sudan’s National Security Services (NSS) has recently stricked the right of freedom of speech by supressing two newspapers and shutting down a radio station on the grounds of political opposition. However, not only the media has been targeted but civilians as well with the arrest of dozens of people with no right to defence or formal charges under the pretence of rebel affiliation.

A report from Amnesty International also calls attention for the fact that war crimes, punishable under international law, have been committed by the South Sudanese government. These were committed by the indiscriminate launching of bombs and ground attacks targeting schools and hospitals.

As a response to this horrific scenario, international organizations such as the United Nations have been on the ground to give aid to the thousands of displaced people. However, the high number of influx in refugee camps makes it complicated to give proper assistance resulting in overcrowded camps and poor living conditions with some people lacking something as simple as a plastic for shelter.

With more than two million people who have fled their homes and with more than four million people in the country who need urgent aid, it is crucial to spread the word about what is happening in South Sudan and start paying attention to what is happening outside the “western bubble”.

Human Rights
Silvie Vale

Passionate about LGBT issues and human rights, Silvie Vale has recently graduated in Development and International Relations from Aalborg University, Denmark. She is specialized in Global Gender Studies and is particularly interested in creating awareness about matters of social justice. She loves travelling, researching and learning new things.
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