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PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:21 pm 
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Rape used for ethnic cleansing in South Sudan, says UN team
By JUSTIN LYNCH
2 December 2016

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) -- South Sudan is experiencing ethnic cleansing in several parts of the country and risks becoming a Rwanda-like catastrophe, a team of U.N. human rights investigators said Friday.

"There is already a steady process of ethnic cleansing underway in several areas of South Sudan using starvation, gang rape, and the burning of villages," said Yasmin Sooka, the lead U.N. investigator, earlier this week. Rape is "one of the tools being used for ethnic cleansing," the U.N. investigators said Friday, adding that sexual violence in the East African nation "has reached epic proportions."

"The scale of gang rape of civilian women as well as the horrendous nature of the rapes by armed men belonging to all groups is utterly repugnant," said Sooka. A U.N. survey found that 70 percent of the women in Juba, South Sudan's capital, had experienced sexual assault since the country's civil war began in December 2013, the team said.

The warning comes after the special investigators finished a 10-day visit to South Sudan earlier this week. They found that the South Sudan government is intentionally moving civilians from the Dinka ethnic group out of Yei, a town that has seen significant fighting near the border of Uganda and the Congo, Ken Scott, a member of the U.N. team, told the Associated Press on Friday in Nairobi. He warned that South Sudan's violence could soon spill over into Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

The core definition of ethnic cleansing is displacement along ethnic lines, said Scott. "It can take many forms, obviously killing people is the most extreme, raping very close to that, destruction of property, destruction of schools," he said.

The claims of ethnic cleansing come as the U.N. Security Council debates placing an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on South Sudan. Those sanctions are supported by the United States. The international community should place sanctions, an arms embargo, and deploy a 4,000 strong force of additional peacekeepers to "avert catastrophe," said investigator Sooka, speaking in the capital of Juba, at a press conference earlier this week.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2017 10:27 pm 
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Rape reaches 'epic proportions' in South Sudan's civil war
By SAM MEDNICK
25 March 2017

MUNDRI, South Sudan (AP) -- After months of being raped by her rebel captors in the middle of South Sudan's civil war, the young woman became pregnant. Held in a muddy pit, sometimes chained to other prisoners, she later watched her hair fall out and her weight plummet. But the child was a spark of life.

And so she named him Barack Obama, she explains, now free. "I still have hope," she says, caressing the baby's cheek with a finger. "I just don't even know where to start."

The slender 23-year-old is one of thousands of rape victims in South Sudan's three-year-old conflict, which has created one of the world's largest humanitarian crises. Sexual violence has reached "epic proportions," says the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

Reported incidents of sexual or gender-based violence rose 60 percent last year. Seventy percent of women sheltering in U.N. camps in the capital, Juba, had been raped since the conflict began, according to a U.N. humanitarian survey conducted in December.

Mundri, a city of 47,000 people in Amadi state, has been called the epicenter of the problem. Aid organizations blame it on the recent increase in fighting here between rebels and government troops, the latest shift of the war in an already devastated nation.

The young woman didn't expect to become embroiled in South Sudan's conflict. "I just came back to visit my home and I lost my dreams," she said in an interview earlier this month. "If I talk about it, I just cry." She had been visiting her family in the summer of 2015, with plans to return to school in the capital, Juba. She never made it back.

Instead, she was abducted by rebels loyal to an opposition group calling itself MTN, after a popular African telephone company. Their catch phrase riffs on the company's slogan, taunting: "We're everywhere you go." The rebels burst through the door of her mother's hut, firing their weapons and shouting, she said. They were searching for her uncle, who'd been accused of conspiring with government forces.

"They beat my grandfather and aunt and then said if they couldn't find my uncle they'll take me instead," she said. "I told them I'd rather die than go with them." But the rebels dragged her into the bush and brought her to their headquarters, where she was charged, tried and convicted for her uncle's "crimes."

For the next 16 months, she was forced to live in large, muddy pits infested with snakes, she said. Subsisting on only vegetables, she wasted away. "I'm not attractive anymore," she says now, tugging at the waistband of her baggy pants. Shifting around in a plastic chair outside a coffee shop, she shyly adjusted her headscarf, covering what little hair she has left. She said she was released in December because she became ill. "They told me to get medicine and then changed their minds and told me to leave and never come back," she said.

Mundri has many such stories. According to a recent Inter-Agency assessment by international and local organizations focused on gender-based violence, 29 rape cases were reported in Mundri between August and October. Local organizations say the number is likely double that, but most incidents go unreported because of stigma surrounding rape.

"Realistically, it's more like over 50 cases," said James Labadia, founder of MAYA, a local aid organization that focuses on women's empowerment. He has been working with rape survivors for several years but said things have never been so dire. "The end of 2016 was the worst quarter I've ever seen," he said.

The group received funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development last year and Labadia plans to seek more, a possibility which may be clouded by President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts.

Reports of rape and abduction are rampant on both sides in Mundri, which is under government control while neighboring villages are held by the opposition. "They stuck their fingers in my daughter's underwear," said another resident, a 26-year-old mother.

In September, two soldiers broke into her house and tried to assault her mother and 9-year-old child, she said. She begged to be raped instead. "If they touched my daughter I would have died." The soldiers left her daughter and mother alone and gang-raped her instead, while her family was forced to listen in the adjacent room, she said. She reported the case to the county commissioner but said no one was ever arrested. She lives in fear it will happen again.

South Sudanese officials insist they are taking steps to counter sexual violence. Things in Mundri are slowly improving, said Abokato Kenyi, the minister of education, gender and social welfare in Amadi state. "The government has put out a new law that any soldier who misbehaves will now be punished," Kenyi said. As of January, he said, anyone convicted of rape will be sentenced to prison.

During the town's first International Women's Day celebration since 2014 earlier this month, Kenyi called on men and women to work together to combat sexual assault. "Come out from the fear," he said.

But survivors say what they really want is to rebuild their lives. Since returning to the community, the 23-year-old rape victim has received psychosocial support from MAYA's staff and joined a women's empowerment group. They're launching business initiatives such as selling soap and baked goods in hopes of helping women become self-sufficient.

Ultimately, her dream is to return to school and become a nurse. "I can't give up," she said. "I need to continue going to school and fighting for my rights. When you get the woman, you get the nation."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 12:18 am 
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South Sudan sexual violence on 'massive scale,' report says
By SAM MEDNICK
24 July 2017

WAU, South Sudan (AP) -- It's been five months since the shy, frail 13-year-old was snatched from his bed, drugged and raped in the middle of the night. The boy hasn't been able to say much since.

"I don't remember a lot," Batista says, darting his eyes toward the dirt floor as he sits in a makeshift clinic in one of South Sudan's displaced people's camps in the town of Wau. The Associated Press is using only the boy's first name to protect his identity.

Four years into South Sudan's devastating civil war, the world's youngest nation is reeling from sexual violence on a "massive scale," a new Amnesty International report says. Thousands of women, children and some men are suffering in silence, grappling with mental distress. Some now have HIV. Others were rendered impotent.

The report is based on interviews with 168 victims of sexual violence in South Sudan and in refugee camps in neighboring Uganda, home to the world's fastest-growing refugee crisis. Some of the sexual assaults occur not during the fighting but among the millions of people sheltering from the conflict.

Batista says he was raped in December by a 45-year-old man he'd seen around the United Nations-run camp. Yet the boy didn't seek psychosocial support until May. Community members say he has kept to himself and is in dire need of help.

The U.N. last year reported a 60 percent increase in gender-based violence in South Sudan, with 70 percent of women in U.N. camps in the capital, Juba, having been raped since the start of the civil war in December 2013. "This is premeditated sexual violence. Women have been gang-raped, sexually assaulted with sticks and mutilated with knives," says Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty's regional director for East Africa. Victims are left with "debilitating and life-changing consequences," and many have been shunned by their families.

The new report interviewed 16 male victims, some who said they had been castrated or had their testicles pierced with needles. "Some of the attacks appear designed to terrorize, degrade and shame the victims, and in some cases to stop men from rival political groups from procreating," Wanyeki says.

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and others say both government and opposition forces use rape as a weapon of war - a strategy made worse because of the country's culture of stigma. "If a survivor is left unsupported or untreated, he or she may develop more serious mental health problems," says Aladin Borja, coordinator for the national mental health and psychosocial support group for the International Organization for Migration.

Survivors are discouraged from speaking openly about rape, Borja says, meaning attacks could continue with impunity. Amnesty International says many victims are targeted because of their ethnicity. "They hide in the bush and jump out at you and rape you on the road," says Bakhit Mario, who also shelters in the U.N. camp in Wau. The 22-year-old is part of the Fertit people, a name for several minority ethnic groups from the north.

She says friends and family have been raped by men who are Dinka, one of South Sudan's largest ethnic groups and the one of President Salva Kiir. "I see aborted babies in the camp's bathrooms," Mario says. She believes many are a result of unwanted pregnancies due to rape.

South Sudan's government has condemned sexual assaults, promising that "the government is moving swiftly to protect civilians from such behavior by educating all armed forces and holding perpetrators accountable," acting government spokesman Choul Laam told the AP. But victims who have reported their attackers to authorities say they've seen little justice. After Batista was raped he told local police, who arrested the perpetrator - only to set the man free a few days later.

Source: AP

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