Sexual violence rampant in South Sudan’s Unity area: UN

The UN warns that endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity state. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 February 2019
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Sexual violence rampant in South Sudan’s Unity area: UN

  • At least 134 women and girls were raped, including some as young as eight, between September and December last year
  • The upsurge in sexual violence is partially attributed to large numbers of fighters on “standby,” awaiting implementation of security arrangements

JUBA, South Sudan: Brutal sexual violence committed with “pervasive impunity” and a level of “premeditation” persists in South Sudan’s northern region, the United Nations said on Friday.
At least 134 women and girls were raped, including some as young as eight, between September and December last year, according to a report issued by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in South Sudan. An additional 41 females suffered different forms of sexual and physical violence, said the report.
Even though South Sudan signed a fragile peace deal on September 12 to end the country’s five-year civil war, which killed almost 400,000 people, the UN warns that endemic conflict-related sexual violence continues in northern Unity state. The UN investigation comes soon after outrage that followed a report by the medical charity Doctors Without Border which said that that 125 women and girls had been raped, whipped and clubbed in a 10-day period in the Unity region at the end of November.
Almost 90 percent of the women and girls were raped by more than one perpetrator and often over several hours, said the UN report. Pregnant women and nursing mothers were also among the victims, including one mother who was nine months pregnant.
“The volatility of the situation in South Sudan combined with the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed throughout Unity, likely leads armed actors to believe that they can get away with rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Most of the attacks were carried out by youth militia groups loyal to First Vice President Taban Deng Gai as well as South Sudan’s government army, said the report.
Internal documents seen by the Associated Press detailing the locations, scale and dates of the attacks, showed that the areas where they occurred are under control of forces allied to the First Vice President, according to a South Sudan security expert who spoke on condition of anonymity because wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.
The government is conducting its own investigation into the charges, however after a preliminary inquiry it denied that the accounts were real.
“Nothing of this kind occurred in Bentiu,” said Rabi Emanuel, the government representative at a meeting in Juba in January chaired by the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the group charged with overseeing the implementation of the peace deal.
The upsurge in sexual violence is partially attributed to large numbers of fighters on “standby,” awaiting implementation of security arrangements under the new peace agreement, said the report.
By May, both government and opposition forces are expected to have been housed in barracks, trained and merged into one national army. However, with only three months left in the pre-transitional stage of the deal the security arrangements have not yet been implemented because of a lack of funds.


UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

A European flag and a British Union flag hang outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices in London, Monday, March 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 40 min ago
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UK prime minister in last-minute push to win Brexit support

  • May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds
  • May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success”

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May was making a last-minute push Monday to win support for her European Union divorce deal, warning opponents that failure to approve it would mean a long — and possibly indefinite — delay to Brexit.
Parliament has rejected the agreement twice, but May aims to try a third time this week if she can persuade enough lawmakers to change their minds. Her aim is to have the deal agreed before EU leaders meet Thursday for a summit in Brussels.
But there was no sign of a breakthrough, and the government faces a deadline of the end of Tuesday to decide whether they have enough votes to pass the deal, so that a vote can be held on Wednesday.
May’s spokesman, James Slack, said Monday that the government would only hold a vote if there is “a realistic prospect of success.”
May is likely to ask for a delay to Brexit at the Brussels summit. If a deal is approved, she says she will ask the EU to extend the deadline until June 30 so that Parliament has time to approve the necessary legislation. If it isn’t, she will have to seek a longer extension that would mean Britain participating in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament — something the government is keen to avoid.
May’s goal is to win over Northern Ireland’s small, power-brokering Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP’s 10 lawmakers prop up May’s Conservative government, and their support could influence pro-Brexit Conservatives to drop their opposition to the deal.
Still, May faces a struggle to reverse the huge margins of defeat for the agreement in Parliament. It was rejected by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes last week.
Influential Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would wait to see what the DUP decided before making up his mind on whether to support May’s deal.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union,” he told LBC radio.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Monday he saw “cautious signs of encouragement” that the deal might make it through Parliament this week.
After months of political deadlock, British lawmakers voted last week to seek to postpone Brexit. That will likely avert a chaotic British withdrawal on the scheduled exit date of March 29 — although the power to approve or reject a Brexit extension lies with the EU, whose leaders are fed up with British prevarication.
EU leaders say they will only grant it if Britain has a solid plan for what to do with the extra time.
“We have to know what the British want: How long, what is the reason supposed to be, how it should go, what is actually the aim of the extension?” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels. “The longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will certainly be.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders agreed, saying: “We are not against an extension in Belgium, but the problem is — to do what?“
Opposition to May’s deal centers on a measure designed to ensure there is no hard border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely, and the DUP fears it could lead to a weakening of the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
Talks between the government and the DUP are aimed at reassuring the party that Britain could not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.
May said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that failure to approve the deal meant “we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever.”
“The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about,” she wrote.
But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused to support her deal.
Johnson, a staunch Brexiteer, used his column in the Daily Telegraph to argue that the backstop left the UK vulnerable to “an indefinite means of blackmail” by Brussels.