Ensuring respect for international human rights and international humanitarian laws at all times and by all soldiers now forms part of the new action plan of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) in the Eastern Equatoria region of South Sudan.
This comes after about 40 high-ranking officers of the SSPDF participated in a training by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on the army’s national obligation to protect the rights of citizens, principles of human rights, command and responsibilities while on duty and addressing conflict-related sexual violence.
“This training has been a platform for our soldiers to deepen their understanding on human rights issues. This will help them maintain strict discipline when performing their duties,” said 2nd Brigade Commander in Magwi, Brigadier General Kulang Tarif Chuol.
In 2018, UNMISS documented 238 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence involving 1291 persons. Of this number, 84 cases were attributed to the SSPDF.
“Conflict-related sexual violence has left terrible scars on many and we need to minimize its occurrence within our forces. As field commanders, let us take responsibility for what happens in areas under our authority. There is no need to encourage rape as punishment for rejection. Rape is a crime,” stated the SSPDF area commander, Major General Robert Ewot Okimo.
According to Cornelius Ochira Lomilo, Deputy Chief of Administration of the 7th Infantry Cobra Division in Torit, “uniformed personnel” should take the lead in this new campaign.
“Our forces will be informed immediately on the issue of conflict-related sexual violence. We need to respect ourselves and our communities. We also need to protect them because we are part of them,” Lomilo said.
Available statistics on conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan remains a harrowing reminder of the need to take immediate concrete actions to address the menace through preventive and responsive measures.