Conflict related sexual violence on the rise in South Sudan

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A decrease in violence against civilians in South Sudan is offset by cases of conflict related sexual violence more than doubling, compared to the same period last year, according to the latest report on civilian casualties by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

From January to March 2022, UNMISS documented 63 cases of conflict related sexual violence – up from 28 compared to the same time last year. Overall, 173 incidents impacted a total of 754 civilian victims, reflecting a 32% decrease in incidents and roughly the same number of civilian victims, compared to the same quarter in 2021.

The UNMISS report has it civil defence groups and militias accounted for the majority of violence against civilians (64%), followed by conventional parties to the conflict (34%). The majority of violence is associated with inter- or intra-communal conflict, particularly in Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria and Warrap states.

The report, compiled by UNMISS’ Human Rights Division, notes inter-communal violence, particularly cattle related conflict, was concentrated where communities compete for scarce resources exacerbated by climate change. The 2021 floods, the worst in decades, further contributed to food insecurity and disruption of livelihoods.

UNMISS continued its extensive activities to prevent and respond to conflict hotspots throughout the reporting period.

From January to March 2022, the Mission maintained six temporary operating bases in conflict hotspots and conducted 1 002 short distance patrols, 75 long distance patrols and 93 air patrols.

UNMISS Human Rights Division participated in 216 patrols and 31 deployments to monitor violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Concurrently, the Mission is engaging in political and community consultations at local, state and national level to advance durable political solutions to conflicts.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Nicholas Haysom, said UNMISS will step up efforts on tackling conflict related sexual violence, “which continues to be one of the most traumatic features of the conflict in South Sudan”.

UNMISS supports efforts to promote protection, rule of law and accountability, through rapid deployment of temporary operating bases, support to mobile courts and delivering specialised training on preventing sexual and gender-based violence.

With violence surging in several parts of the country, UNMISS urges the South Sudan government to investigate human rights violations and abuses and hold all perpetrators to account.