Destruction and Rape in South Sudan’s Civil War

Four years after South Sudan became the world’s newest country, its civil war has reached horrific levels of violence. Between April and June, government forces, together with associate militia, carried out an aggressive offensive in the north.  Despite meeting little resistance in many areas – only women, children, and the elderly remained in most villages – troops killed civilians, torched homes, and beat, raped, and abducted women.  At least 100,000 people have been displaced and untold numbers are left suffering.

There were opposition fighters who did fight in some villages, but in most cases, men fled the advancing army and militia to run with their cattle, or because they feared execution.  Many of the women stayed behind because they thought they would be safe since they are not combatants.  Soldiers burned down homes, and abused women terribly.

Many women who were found by fighters in the villages were beaten.  But these women often said they were lucky to just be beaten, not raped.  There has been a lot of sexual violence.  Women were often raped in groups.  Other women were abducted and taken as “loot.”

The fighters destroyed everything people need to survive. They burned the stores of food inside huts and stole tens of thousands of cattle, which are the main source of wealth in South Sudan.  They also wrecked the compounds of non-governmental organizations or humanitarian organizations.

Tens of thousands of people are staying at a UN camp.  Humanitarian workers in the UN base are working around the clock to get these people what they need — food and shelter.  But when they first arrive, they have very few options, the base is dirty and crowded, and they cannot even get plastic sheeting to protect them from the weather.

More than two dozen armed groups are involved in the civil war that has left tens of thousands dead and has been marked by widespread atrocities on both sides.  The fighters accuse the government of plotting to stay in power indefinitely, not fairly representing and supporting all tribal groups while neglecting development in rural areas.

Peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia restarted recently as international pressure mounts ahead of an August 17 deadline to strike a deal.  However, a recent split among rebels has seriously threatened to interrupt the ongoing peace talks.

South Sudan is a landlocked country in northeastern Africa that gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011.  Since then she has suffered internal conflict.  She has the highest score on the Fragile States Index (which measures a state’s vulnerability to collapse or conflict).  The population is estimated to be 8 million. The economy is predominantly rural and relies chiefly on subsistence farming. [HRW, Digital Journal, Wiki]

Meditation on Scriptures:

God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.
If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow.
He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.
(Psalm 7:11 – 13)

God is just, and wants to be seen diligent in his duty of close surveillance of wicked people.  He is always well prepared for necessary violent actions, stocking up the most powerful and deadliest weapons against the wicked who do not change their ways.

Pray that:

  • the international community will call for sanctions against rebel commanders, and initiate an arms embargo to stop the flow of new weapons and military hardware to the parties.
  • peace talks can continue.