Seeking Justices for the Rape Victims of Terekeka

“…… SPLA soldiers continue to rape, while the world celebrates the Woman’s Day.”

By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD

March 25, 2010 (SSNA) — Writing about rape in ones backyard is one of those most distressing tasks to undertake. The proliferation of this very evil behavior amongst our men in uniform at what is now supposed to be a peace time, calls for our collective attention to address the underlying cause. There are many indications to suggest the presence of mentally sick persons who have made it into the ranks of some of our most sensitive institutions such as the army.    

However due to the fragility of our national unity, we will be better off if we offer to respond with the required seriousness that such issues often deserve. What we are currently seeing should be rightly taken as very serious warning signs and must be tackled headlong lest their sinister underlying motives take to the stage where the impacts are more than likely to dwarf both Somalia and Rwanda put together.

The semi- autonomous region of south Sudan since the dark days of the last civil war has been a home to many previously unknown ill acts. It was common for men in uniform to turn around to fight their perceived enemies by inflicting unforgivable but also unforgettable social and psychological traumas.   Whole targeted tribes, perceived to be enemies were collectively tortured through the use of rape as a means to achieve that. The victims are often the faultless, helpless and unarmed women and girls.

And with the resurgence of such acts at this particular times in our rural communities of south Sudan, one can surely say that  our efforts at trying hard to forge a national identity out of   our too numerous tribes and clans are being put to test.  

But broadly speaking everybody seems to be in total agreement with the GoSS when it adapted ‘the 25% policy’ for the allocation of posts for its female citizens, in line with the  the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA).  This is taken as one positive achievement because regardless of the fact that the agreement succeeded to have brought about some relative cessation of hostilities between the primary warring factions, for the ordinary citizen in the south, the two decades civil war has hardly left the scene as insecurity remains almost felt in every corner.

The policy of giving back our women their rights as fellow human being and equal citizens who are in fact, our mothers and the mothers of our future generations,   whose historical roles in modeling our society since the time of creation, stands as one of the outstanding achievements of the CPA. It is a just recognition of the indispensable roles played by our women colleagues throughout the struggle.

However it is regrettable also to see that the accounts of the Sudanese civil wars had on all occasions victimized the women and exposed them to more inhumane treatments than the men. Both armies in the war are on record for the gross violations of the rights of female citizens.  

The Sudan People’s liberation army (SPLA), although apparently presumed to be fighting to protect the rights of the marginalized people, they were notoriously also known for the countless cases of rapes committed against none but women from the very communities that they are supposed to protect and liberate.

It is no longer of great surprise to hear of cases where rape was used as a weapon of torture, no different to what happens now in the Congo and other war torn parts of the world. It is often the case that when soldiers entered what is perceived to be rivaling tribes’ villages, records and stories exist to which many of the living victims can still testify to.

It was these very antisocial and inhumane acts of rapes carried out against women from the so presumed minority tribes, clans or communities that drove many tribes and communities to paradoxically seek support even from the Sudan government armed forces, the supposed to be ‘common enemy’.

Now that we are no yet over with the month of March, where the whole world continues to celebrate  the international Women’s’ Day, it remains in deed shocking and a revelation of the hypocrisy that   affects our abilities to adhere to the basic slogans which we have jointly  subscribed to and continue to raise wherever we go.

This is the story that challenges all south Sudanese people, politicians, citizens, civilians and soldiers alike.  It is a great shame on us to read this:

March 23, 2010 (JUBA) – Southern Sudan army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has been accused of killing and raping civilians in Central Equatoria state.

According to Nhial Bol, Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Juba-based The Citizen newspaper, in a news report he published on Monday, said residents of Terekeka County of Central Equatoria state have accused the forces of the SPLA of raping women and girls in their villages.

The army is also accused of killings and causing insecurity in the town. "SPLA soldiers always come at night searching for our wives and our daughters to rape," a resident was reported as saying.

Let us take a moment here and see what all the above entails. Here is a well documented and reported case of rape, which is a human rights abuse. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization which has its office in Juba, the capital of south Sudan, needs to immediately step in and do an independent investigation on the ground. The victims also deserve an urgent medical attention, HIV/STDS screening and the appropriate medical interventions applied.

Victims of rape can be severely traumatized by the assault and may have difficulty functioning as well as they had been used to prior to the assault, with disruption of concentration, sleeping patterns and eating habits, for example. They may feel jumpy or be on edge. After being raped it is common for the victim to experience Acute Stress Disorder, including symptoms similar to those of posttraumatic stress disorders, such as intense, sometimes unpredictable, emotions, and they may find it hard to deal with their memories of the event.In the months immediately following the assault these problems may be severe and very upsetting and may prevent the victim from revealing their ordeal to friends or family, or seeking police or medical assistance.

To our politicians whom I strongly believe are now well aware of what happened, but as usual prefer to keep low profiles lest their reactions endanger their votes, I would like to tell them that it is completely a big shame not for them to condemn these rape attacks being carried out by the currently deployed SPLA soldiers in Terekeka County.

These repeated acts of gross unprofessionalism constantly demonstration by the sizable undisciplined individuals operating from within the SPLA has already reached an intolerable levels that cannot be shied away from any more. And for obvious reasons, I beg to disagree with the recurrent negative attitudes of the SPLA spokesperson who thinks that this public institution should remain immune to any criticism. As citizens of south Sudan, we do not for a second expect that the huge public funds being spent on this army, is to train enemies against the civilians.  Any  army that doesn’t listen to the loud cries of the down trodden masses leave alone this irresponsible attitude of recurrent RAPES against their own sisters, aunts and female citizens, is no different to an occupation army.

The international community has a moral duty to pressurize the GoSS in order to carry out an urgent investigation into these rape cases and the culprits must be immediately brought to justices. It is not enough for president Kiir , the command in chief (C-in-C), of the SPLA, to declare war on the Lords’ Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ambororo nomadic tribesmen and their sponsors, while rapes are being carried out on our own women and daughters by non by his boys in uniform.

The way forward, in seeking to provide the much needed protection to our communities who reside in the rural areas, is for our sisters who now occupy the 25% of the different political and administrative posts in the south Sudan governmental (GoSS), institutions as well as the nongovernmental organisation (NGOs) to stand up and lead the fight on behalf of their sisters and daughters who will continue to be victimized in this male dominated setting. These crimes as nasty as they stand, the truth is that, they could have been prevented,  for the perpetuators are people who could have been disciplined, brought to the book and made to behave themselves.

However the above can only be realized, if and only if the C-in-C takes his job seriously or otherwise a sustained pressure should be put on his relaxed leadership. Shaking the very chair in which he currently seems to have found the unexplained comfort while all kinds of injustices are committed with great impunity, is a constitutional privilege of each and every electorate during this election season.

It shouldn’t now surprise anyone anymore as it becomes an established open secret that the semi-autonomous south Sudan continues to make the headlines for insecurity for the big chunk of the last two years and more recently so, for the lack of freedom of expression especially so during this times of electioneering, however this latest dimension of the regular army being involved in the mass rapes of helpless females citizens will only compound the situation. While our leaders can find ease in labelling the LRA as being notoriously known for its records of human rights abuses, yet the question that begs is , “how do we explain the wrongs committed by our own as SPLA is directly under command of the C-in-C, First Lieutenant General. Dr. Salvatore Kiir Mayardit, who at the same time can pass as the first vice president of the republic of Sudan, president of south Sudan and chairman of the dominant SPLM party.

While we all put our support behind the disarmament of the civilian population in south Sudan, it must be stressed that the process has remained for the bulk of it, associated with much flaws and in each case a recently disarmed community immediately becomes a vulnerable target for attacks from rival communities, and sometimes even from the SPLA soldiers themselves as is the case with the Terekeka County, where they suffered both evils.

"We never experienced these inhumane practices [but] only after disarming us just two months ago that they had moved to rape our daughters and wives. They know we are weak to react," said a Terekeka resident from the Mundari tribe (Sudan Tribune 23/03/10).

These kind of comments deeply reflects how the population have lost trust in not only the disarmament process but even the government as it has failed to provide the necessary security to this communities who are left vulnerable to raids and harassments in the absence of their arms that they community have defended themselves with for the last three decades or so.

Not too long these very people in a bid to protect their daughters and wives and cattle, the Mundari tribe of Central Equatoria State, and many other south Sudanese tribes who found themselves as soft targets for tribal revenges from the SPLA fighters, chose at large to remain in the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) controlled garrison towns, where they received trainings, weapons and ammunitions from the government of Khartoum. This in itself should demonstrate to all of us how the immense humiliation that the inhumane acts of rape carried out indiscriminately on communities, pushed them to the extent that they were better off under the traditional enemy than joining the SPLM/A, a movement that on the outside portrays itself to be fighting to liberate the whole south, while internal the diehard urge to seek revenge and settle tribal disputes continues to operate unchallenged.

There are a lot many very bitter experiences, of which RAPE remains a central issue. They helped to pit one southern Sudanese tribe against the other, and as obvious as they are, they continue to occupy a core point in the huge scars of the civil war. This is not to deny the huge task undertaken by the current leadership in the GoSS, as it did well to diffuse the general tensions that existed between repelling communities and opposing militia groups, by incorporating these many armed tribal groups into the main SPLA thus forming a unified army for south Sudan. Although how unified, inclusive and national the SPLA is now can be a point of contentions, the real fear arises from the daily realities because despite all what was done, unfortunately the SPLA stubbornly remains to be very shaky, with old loyalties remaining intact or being continuously nourished to command the   first place.

There is nobody who can reject anything that carries one’s national symbol, like the constitution, the army, the currency, the flag……………. etc, however it is regrettable that our national army for the south has become more known for its human rights violations, first in Rumbek, the Lakes State, then Yambio in the western Equatoria State (WES) and now Terekeka, in the Central Equatoria State (CES). Let us face it and the truth is that, our army is badly in need of professional weeding and tight discipline and not just the perfections of involuntary reactions of cover-ups and blind supports for obvious flaws as being the case with the current spokesperson who seems to have taken the position more from the literary meaning of the word where one speaks before even conducting any thorough investigations.

This was the case when he denied the SPLA’s involvement in the Yambio shooting spree. It was by all standards a very inhumane incident in which there no anyway to deny the army being incriminated in the showering of the school children with live bullets. He was no doubt proved to be uninformed when he made his initial statement, just to prove wrong by eye witnesses’ accounts of the events.

Last but not least I would like to stress that RAPE is now recognized by the ICC as a crime against humanity since it was established that the Muslim women in Foca (southeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina) were subjected to systematic and widespread gang by Bosnian Serb soldiers, policemen and members of paramilitary groups after the takeover of the city in April 1992. This strongly leaves no room for any international organizations, regional bodies or NGOs to choose to remain silent on any issues related to the crime of RAPE.

“Changes do not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent” Martin Luther King

Dr.  Justin Ambago Ramba,  M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). The party that stands for the independence of South Sudan. Can be reached at either [email protected] or [email protected]

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