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Horrific Sexual Violence in South Sudan, UN Envoy Says

Last updated on: October 13, 2014 

BENTIU— Women and children in South Sudan have been the victims of horrific sexual violence since the country plunged into conflict 10 months ago, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, said after a week-long visit.

"In all my life and experience of nearly 30 years in public service and in the UN and as a government minister, I have never seen what I have seen today,” Bangura said after visiting a U.N. camp in Bentiu last week, where thousands of people have sought shelter from the fighting.

"I come from Sierra Leone," Bangura said. "I had the war. I was in the capital city when (it) fell. We picked bodies from streets and buried them."

"I worked in Liberia for two years... I have gone to Somalia, I have gone to DRC, I have gone to the Central African Republic and I have gone to Bosnia... but I have never seen what I saw today," she said.

During her week-long visit to South Sudan, Bangura met with officials, including President Salva Kiir, and civil society organizations, including women's and faith-based groups. She travelled to trouble-spots in the country, like Bentiu, and met with ordinary people who have been bearing the brunt of 10 months of violence.

Bentiu has seen some of the heaviest fighting in South Sudan since the crisis broke out in mid-December 2013.

More than 42,000 displaced persons are sheltering at the Protection of Civilian's (PoC) area at the U.N. compound in the town. The U.N. has said that most of the people in PoC sites are women and children.

In Bentiu, Bangura said she "... heard a story of a woman who had just given birth who had been raped. I heard a story of an old woman who was raped. I heard a story of children as young as 10, 11 years who are being raped on a daily basis.”

She said information she gathered in South Sudan lay responsibility for the acts of sexual violence against women and children at the feet of government and rebel forces.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s painful ... the harassments and sexual violence that take place at check points, and when the women go out to get food and when they go out to get fire wood. It’s really extremely distressing,” Bangura said, fighting back tears.

Bangura said the women she met in South Sudan asked her to deliver a simple message to leaders on both sides of the conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives and forced some 1.8 million to flee their homes.  

"One message... enough is enough, we want peace... sign that agreement and keep to it because we want to go back home,” Bangura said.

A cessation of hostilities agreement, brokered by regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), was signed for South Sudan in January, but has been repeatedly violated since then.

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