UN: Over 150 sexual violence cases in South Sudan in 12 days

In this Saturday, June 3, 2017 file photo, a South Sudanese refugee and 32-year-old mother, who said she was raped for several days by a group of soldiers before she was allowed to leave, stands by a window at a women's center focusing on gender-based violence, run by the aid group International Rescue Committee, in Bidi Bidi, Uganda. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2018

UN: Over 150 sexual violence cases in South Sudan in 12 days

  • The actual number of cases is far higher, as gender-based violence continues to be severely under-reported, the UN officials said

UNITED NATIONS: More than 150 women and girls have sought treatment in the past 12 days for rape and other acts of sexual violence near Bentiu, the second-largest city in South Sudan, UN officials said Monday.
A joint statement from the UN humanitarian chief and the heads of the UN children’s agency and the UN population agency condemned the “abhorrent attacks.”
They said that “the assailants have been described as armed men, many in uniform.”
A UN statement said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attacks. “These horrific acts are a distressing reminder of how, despite recent recommitments by South Sudan’s leaders to a cessation of hostilities and a revitalized peace agreement, the security situation for civilians remains dire, especially for women and children,” the statement said.
Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and UN Population Fund Executive Director Natalia Kanem called on authorities “to publicly denounce the attacks and ensure that those responsible for these crimes face justice.”
In the first half of 2018, they said, some 2,300 cases of gender-based violence were reported to medical and aid groups in South Sudan, the vast majority perpetrated against women and girls and over 20 percent against children.
“The actual number of cases is far higher, as gender-based violence continues to be severely under-reported,” the UN officials said.
“Humanitarian workers are providing critical, life-saving assistance and services to the survivors of the attacks,” they said. “We call on the authorities to ensure the protection and safety of both civilians and aid workers, to ensure that further such horrendous violations are prevented and that assistance reaches those in need.”
Humanitarian workers have warned of higher rates of sexual assault as growing numbers of desperate people try to reach aid.
Doctors Without Borders said Saturday the “dramatic increase” in sexual violence occurred as the women and girls walked to a food distribution site in Bentiu in Unity state.
They were robbed of clothing and shoes, and even their ration cards for food distribution were seized and destroyed, the group said.
Ruth Okello, a midwife with Doctors Without Borders who treated some of the survivors, called what happened “indescribable” and said those targeted include pregnant and elderly women and girls as young as 10.
Before the latest attacks, the medical charity said its Bentiu clinic treated 104 survivors of sexual assault in the first 10 months of this year.
There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after its independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. But it plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who is a Nuer.
Sexual violence has been widespread in the country’s civil war.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 didn’t stop the fighting, and neither did cessation of hostilities agreement in December 2017 and a declaration on June 27. A Sept. 12 power-sharing agreement signed in neighboring Sudan has so far been fraught with delays, missed deadlines and continued fighting in parts of the country.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and forced over 4 million to flee their homes — more than 1.8 million of them leaving the country in what has become one of the world’s fastest-growing refugee crises.
A UN panel of experts circulated a report last week saying that the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan and UN human rights experts recently “corroborated accounts by victims and witnesses of women and girls as young as 12 years having been abducted by opposition forces and paraded for commanders to choose as ‘wives’.”
Three of Machar’s commanders in charge of forces committing the offenses have been identified, the panel said. They were not named.

Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins Ukraine elections after incumbent president Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat

Updated 21 min 45 sec ago

Comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy wins Ukraine elections after incumbent president Petro Poroshenko concedes defeat

  • Petro Poroshenko tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag and national identity
  • Zelenskiy is a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies

KIEV: Incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday conceded he had been soundly defeated in a run-off vote by comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy and would be leaving office next month, but said he did not plan to quit politics altogether.

Ukraine entered uncharted political waters on Sunday after an exit poll showed Zelenskiy, a comedian with no political experience and few detailed policies, had easily won enough votes to become the next president of a country at war.

The apparent landslide victory of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 41, is a bitter blow for incumbent Petro Poroshenko who tried to rally Ukrainians around the flag by casting himself as a bulwark against Russian aggression and a champion of Ukrainian identity.

Poroshenko said the results were "clear" and a reason to "call my opponent and congratulate him", after exit polls showed the performer taking 73 percent of the vote.

"I will leave office but I want to firmly stress -- I will not quit politics," he added.

Zelensky vowed to "reboot" peace talks with separatists that also involve Russia and the West.

"In any case we will act within the Normandy framework, we will continue with the Minsk talks, we will reboot them," Zelensky told a news conference.

"I think we will have personnel changes there," he added.