UNMISS claims civilians beheaded, women gang-raped in Leer clashes

UNMISS claims civilians beheaded, women gang-raped in Leer clashes
United Nations Special Representative to South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom (photo credit: courtesy)

The UN peacekeeping mission has condemned the recent clashes in Leer County Upper Nile State alleging the violence was characterised by gang rape and beheadings of the unarmed civil population.

According to UNMISS, 64 cases of sexual violence were recorded by its human rights, adding that two survivors were repeatedly gang-raped after they had come out of their hideout to buy food for their children, among them a lactating mother who had just given birth.

The agency also said it documented 72 deaths of civilians and at least 11 injured by the armed youth from Koch and Mayendit counties during a surge in violence over the past months since February 17. 

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan, and UNMISS boss, Nicolas Haysom said one of the horrific human rights violations was the burning of civilians alive, and called for justice for the victims.

“I am strongly appalled by these horrific attacks on civilians in Leer,” Mr Haysom said.

 “We must all do everything we can to ensure that victims and survivors get the justice they deserve and receive the care and support they need.”

According to UNMISS, the violence has displaced over 40,000 with thousand reported having crossed the River Nile to Fangak in Jonglei State. Thousands of herds of cattle were raided and markets, homes, humanitarian facilities, and warehouses were looted and burnt down.

Humanitarian agencies 

At least one aid worker from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) succumbed during the clashes. Humanitarian assets were either burnt or looted by the attackers, forcing some aid agencies to pull out of Leer County. 

MSF also condemned non-discriminatory attacks on unarmed civilians and called on the armed parties to cease hostility to allow aid to reach thousands in dire need in the county.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, in February condemned what she said was the “continued’ violence against the civilian population and aid workers in the country and called for an immediate end to the violations.

‘‘Attacks on civilians and humanitarian assets constitute grave violence under international humanitarian law. 

‘‘The humanitarian community urges all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians and humanitarian personnel and assets, and calls on authorities to conduct a full investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice, “Ms Beysolow stated.

Though the civil population in the county accused armed parties to the revitalised peace agreement of backing the violence, both SSPDF and SPLA-IO have denied being part of the ongoing conflict. 

Government move 

Recently, President Salva Kiir formed a committee to investigate the incident after hundreds of sons and daughters of Leer County including lawmakers took the parliament to demand justice for their loved ones killed in the violence. The committee was yet to deliver one of its mandates.