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Western Equatoria violence, catalysed with brutal sexual violence claimed 440 lives: UN

File photo of UN Peacekeepers patrolling in Tambura to quell violence

By Deng Machol

Violence in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State last year, carried all the hallmarks of brutality, leaving a trail of sexual violence and murder, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and the UN Human Rights Office said.

Between June and September 2021, at least 440 civilians were killed, 18 injured, and 74 abducted during clashes between warring groups, the agencies said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

“At least 64 civilians were subjected to conflict-related sexual violence, among them a 13-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death. In addition, some 80,000 were forced to flee their homes to escape fighting,” they said.

“Looting and destruction of property, child conscription, attacks on personnel and facilities, hate speech and incitement to violence were among the other human rights violations the investigation uncovered.”

Those suspected of instigating, facilitating and aiding the violence have been identified comprising high-ranking military officials and community and religious leaders.

For actual violations and abuses, the UN agencies named members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) and the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) led by Major General James Nando and their respective affiliated militias.

”Allegations against these individuals must be promptly, thoroughly and independently investigated; and perpetrators brought to justice and held accountable,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said.

“We call on all parties to the conflict to hold to account all individuals implicated in the killings, rape, and abductions, among other grave human rights violations,” Bachelet said.

“Women and children who were abducted must immediately be released and reunited with their families, and survivors provided with reparations.”

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