Thirteen South Sudanese soldiers are standing trial in Juba for allegedly raping of foreign aid workers and murdering their local colleague. The ugly incident, which took place last July was one of the series of lawless acts being committed by the warring parties in the youngest independent country, South Sudan. The latest rape of the foreign workers, who risk their lives to help the war-torn South Sudan has forced many to doubt the ability and willingness of the UN peacekeepers, stationed in the country, to protect civilians – the core part of their mandate.
During the attack on the Terrain Hotel, where most of the foreign aid workers and many international organizations stay, between 50 and 100 soldiers forcefully descended on the hotel and mercilessly raped five women, according to Mike Woodward, the manager of the hotel, who testified during the trial. He insisted that the incident took place in a rebel-controlled area. Although Mr. Woodward’s account, which equally rhymes with the UNO report was denied by the lawyer of the accused soldiers, many international media houses equally corroborated the story.
Ever since South Sudan got its independence from Sudan six years ago, after more than two decades of civil war between the Arab-dominated north and the predominantly African and Christian people of the South, the newly independent country, which is abundantly blessed with rich oil reserves has hardly enjoyed peace. After the war with the South which claimed more than 2 million casualties, the power struggle between two major ethnic tribes has resulted in a three-and-a-half-year-old conflict. The animosity between President Salva Kiir (from the Dinka tribe) and his Vice-President Riek Machar from the Nuer tribe has turned the country into a hell on earth. Atrocities, including rape, massacre and other human rights abuses and alleged war crimes have become the order of the day. In most cases, innocent local civilians have been paying the biggest price.
Interesting, the latest rape of the foreign aid workers has forced the international community to put unbearable pressure on the Juba government to take actions. In as much as one condemns the reckless cruelty, it makes one wonder why the international community has so far done much less to bring the culprits of institutionalized rapes and other atrocities committed against the poor innocent locals to book. Why must the international community turn a blind eye to all the inhuman acts committed against the South Sudanese all these years of irresponsible conflict? Does it mean that the lives of thousands of the locals, who have been brutally murdered, raped or displaced, matter less than the psychological war of the raped foreign aid workers? Again, everyone must unconditionally condemn the rape of innocent foreign aid workers, however, until the international community waits for the barbarity in South Sudan to affect foreign workers before they take serious measures to stop the horror, the lawlessness in South Sudan will continue, while the innocent civilians bear the blunt consequences.