Southern Sudan yesterday rejected UN accusations that its soldiers raped and killed civilians during the ethnic violence that erupted in the capital Juba and elsewhere last month.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said on Thursday that “We have documented at least 217 cases of sexual violence in Juba between 8 and 25 July”. He also called on the government of President Salva Kiir to hold accountable those responsible and appealed to world powers in the UN Security Council to take “urgent action” to stop the violence.
On his part, the spokesman for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang said that as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the country, it should provide evidence that government soldiers were involved in these crimes and added that he had not received any formal complaints.
He continued by saying “As for the rape reports which indicate that the perpetrators are men dressed in military uniforms… Why don’t they (the UN) give us the evidence they have gathered so we can take action.”
He explained “We need to obtain evidence that our soldiers were involved in the alleged crimes so that we can address the accusations”.
The fighting in South Sudan erupted in July between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his bitter rival Riek Machar who was his vice president before Kirr dismissed him.
Machar returned to the capital Juba in April after a fragile peace agreement but left again after renewed clashes that killed at least 272 people. He said that he would not return until after an intervention force is deployed to separate forces loyal to him and forces loyal to Kiir.
Al-Hussein alluded to two separate incidents that took place on the 11th of July when SPLA soldiers reportedly arrested eight Nuer civilians during house-to-house searches in Juba’s Munuki area and took them to two nearby hotels where they shot four of them. On the same day, SPLA soldiers broke into another hotel where they shot and killed a Nuer journalist.
Kirr dismissed six ministers six ministers allied to his long-time rival Riek Machar late on Tuesday and replaced them with allies of the new Vice President Taban Deng Gai. This has led to a worsening of the political dispute in the newest country in the world, and has sparked threats of more fighting.