[VOA, by John Tanza] An Anglican archbishop said the government of South Sudan is not serious about apprehending soldiers who rape women and girls in the country. The Archbishop of Central Equatorial Internal Province, in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, Paul Yugusuk, said his office has reported a case of a pregnant women who was raped at gunpoint this week by a member of the South Sudan army stationed at Aru conjunction post on the Juba Nimule highway. Yugusuk told VOA’s South Sudan In Focus that military authorities have not yet arrested the accused soldier, who remains at large and might continue raping women in Aru at gunpoint.
The archbishop said the woman and her husband were held at gun point by soldiers manning the Aru conjunction. “The woman was threatened by gun. The husband was also threatened. One soldier raped the woman. The woman is now in the hospital. She has been in a critical situation. A (police case) has been opened at the Aru conjunction Police post against the SPLA,” he said.
Yugusuk said his office is in contact with authorities of Jubek state to apprehend soldiers who commit atrocities against civilians. In February 2017, President Salva Kiir ordered the country’s defence minister and his army chief of staff to execute soldiers who commit murder or rape against civilians in Yei River State.
The archbishop said military authorities are shielding such soldiers from facing justice. “When the case goes up (to military authorities), this is where it also dies. So it encourages the soldiers to do what they want to do because they will not be held accountable,” Yugusuk said.
The SPLA issued formal charges in June 2017 against 12 soldiers facing trial in the General Court Martial (GCM) for raping aid workers and murdering a journalist during the renewed July 2016 clash in Juba. The trial of the 12 soldiers is still ongoing.
Since the outbreak of the December 2013 conflict in South Sudan, both government and opposition troops have committed atrocities, including war crimes, extrajudicial killings, abductions, and looting. Women and girls have been raped en masse.
Last year, Yugusuk was vocal about an incident where soldiers raped teenage girls in a village in South Sudan. He said the four soldiers accused of committing the sexual crimes have not yet been charged in a court of law.
“We are still keeping the survivors [rape victims] waiting for court for one year. We don't know whether they [four soldiers] are in custody or not. You cannot ask them [military authorities].”
President Kiir warned South Sudanese not to send messages that will tarnish the image of South Sudan during his New Year message.
“You [President Kiir] cannot tell me that messages should not be sent out when our people are being raped. So we keep quiet?”, the archbishop inquired.
- This article is republished with kind permission from VOA.