Weeks after sexual violence attacks on vulnerable civilians in South Sudan victims in the Unity region have begun coming forward to narrate their ordeals.
An 18-year-old mother of two, whose identity was not disclosed to protect her, recounts how she and a friend were walking to their village in Nhialdiu, about 40 kilometres west of the town Bentiu, when they were attacked by armed men.
The two women were bound and dragged into the bush and repeatedly raped by their attackers.
We were coming back from the town, and on our way, we found people, and these people stole our belongings.
After an eight hour ordeal, the women were released the following morning weak and in pain. They were found on the roadside by Good Samaritans.
“We were coming back from the town, and on our way, we found people, and these people stole our belongings, and after that, they tied us for eight hours in the bush, and then at 4 am, they released us,” she said.
According to the victim, this happened in early November.
Reports by aid agencies last week of a wave of “brutal” sexual attacks on women and girls, including the rape of 125 women in Bentiu has drawn outrage and condemnation.Following the reports, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has launched investigations into the rapes and stepped up security measures including regular patrols in the area.
South Sudan has suffered a wrenching five-year civil war. Despite a fragile peace accord signed two months ago by the government and rebel groups, the country remains ridden with ethnic grievances and awash with weapons.
“Now with the current situation we cannot farm, we are not producing food, we are depending on the United Nations, and when we try to go to town to get food, we risk being attacked on the way,” said Roda Chol, who lives in Nhialdiu.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence by all sides in South Sudan’s civil war have become widespread and have reached a massive scale in recent years, leaving thousands battling mental distress and stigma with nowhere to turn, according to an Amnesty International report released last year.