YEI, 16 January 2021 – The case of two South Sudanese women who sued and won against soldiers who raped them has raised hopes of accountability in the war-torn country.
The convictions were handed down last September, but the story is only now getting worldwide attention thanks to a story posted Friday by the Associated Press after a visit to Yei, South Sudan.
“First, the soldiers stole their belongings. Then they took their food,” reads the AP story in part.
“On their third and final visit,” continues the AP story “the soldiers raped her and her daughter-in-law until they were unable to walk”.
The older of the two women, now 48 years old, said she was traumatized, adding she is still so afraid that she does not feel safe to return to her native village of Adio.
The women reported the rape to South Sudan’s army chief when the latter visited their village last May.
Military judges sent from the capital, Juba, heard the case and the case of ten other women and girls who also came forward.
Twenty-six soldiers were convicted, some for rape, with others convicted for other crimes, including looting.
Rape was and, by many accounts, continues to be used as a weapon of war in South Sudan, which fought a deadly independence war.
The South Sudanese army hopes that the trial and convictions are a wanring for its troops who, in 2016 gang-raped five aid workers in a hotel and killed a local journalist who was trying to cover the crimes.
“We apologize, we won’t let it happen again, and we’ll arrest people who do it,” the AP cites Michael Machar Malual, head of civilian-military relations for the army in Central Equatoria state as saying.
A 2019 study by UNICEF found that 65 percent of women and girls in South Sudan have experienced sexual or other physical violence.
Emulating best practice in journalism, Africa Freedom Network subscribes to the AP’s commitment not to disclose the names of victims of rape.