Government forces in South Sudan accused of deliberately killing and raping civilians

Amnesty International report says soldiers targeted women from Nuer ethnic group for rape

south sudan

The body of a rebel soldier who died in a battle days before is seen with his hands tied, in Malakal, South Sudan | File photo: PA Images

South Sudanese government forces are responsible for deliberately killing civilians in the country’s capital, according to a new report.

The Amnesty International study, based on field research carried out in Juba between July and September, also accused soldiers of raping women and girls.

Renewed fighting between government soldiers supporting President Salva Kiir and troops loyal to opposition leader Riek Machar broke out in the city in July.

Shortly after violence began at the presidential palace, Amnesty said, government troops began targeting ordinary citizens based on ethnicity and perceived political loyalties.

In one example cited in the report, a 32-year-old journalist with facial scarring marking him as belonging to the Nuer tribe was shot dead during a hotel raid, as soldiers shouted "Nuer, Nuer".

Soldiers also reportedly sought out Nuer women for rape, not only to harm them, but also to humiliate and punish their husbands.

A 35-year-old Nuer woman who was sexually assaulted by three soldiers said the men told her: "Your husband is a Nuer man, our enemy." Her clothes were full of blood when they finally released her, she said. 

Government soldiers also raped women and girls from other non-Dinka ethnic groups, according to the report. 

A member of the Kuku group described how his two sisters, ages 14 and 17, were targeted by soldiers at their family compound in Juba.

He said that the soldiers, who also looted the compound, accused the family of supporting Mr Machar.

The report further expressed concern about the UN's response to the violence, highlighting what it described as "serious failings" in the conduct of peacekeeping forces.

It said one 24-year-old Nuer woman who was raped by government soldiers close to a UN base in the capital alleged UN peacekeepers and private security guards could see the attack but did not come to her aid.

UN troops also failed to intervene during an attack on the Terrain Hotel, during which several women were gang-raped, even though it was only a kilometre away from their base, Amnesty International said.

The NGO called on the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) to look into the July violence, and take steps to ensure the establishment of an independent hybrid court able to investigate and prosecute crimes.

Joanna Mariner of Amnesty International said: "South Sudanese government troops killed men from the Nuer ethnic group, raped women and girls, and carried out a massive campaign of pillage.

"These attacks by government forces are further proof of the urgent need to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan, with the aim of stopping the flow of weapons, and establish an effective mechanism to monitor compliance.

"States should not be profiting off weapons that are being used to kill civilians."