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ARMY Plan to curb sexual violence

Defense and Veteran Affairs Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk (3rd left),

Chief of Defense Forces, Gabriel Jok Riak and senior commanders of armed forces holding sample of the SSPDF Action Plan (Photo: Moses Gum)

By Moses Gum

The South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) yesterday launched a plan of action to eliminate and address conflict related sexual violence. The launch was held in Juba at the Bilpam Military Headquarters.

The army reiterated commitment to protect and eliminate all forms of sexual related violence across the country.

Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk said curving all forms of violence require concerted efforts by the army commanders to fully adhere to the Action Plan.

“Sexual violence has been a major issue in South Sudan. The government, the army and others had been blamed several times over the same matter. Even President Kiir himself has been blamed. So we must eliminate it by all means,” Defense Minister said.

He said if an individual soldier committed a crime, the first blame goes to the commander, the government and even to the head of the nation.

Kuol said South Sudan has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council due to alleged violations including sexual related conflict and other abuses.

“Top leaders are to be blamed and account for the crimes committed by their juniors. This is a serious situation. We must stop it by any means,” Minister Kuol said.

He directed top army military leaders to strictly observe the action plan to prevent sexually related violence by soldiers to avoid further blames and counter accusations by international actors.

According to Minister Kuol, any individual soldier in the army and other organized forces found to be involved in committing sexual crimes will be punished accordingly.

“The Commanders of various Divisions and Battalions must talk to their soldiers to denounce all acts of sexual violence committed within their unit. They must arrest perpetrators and present them before Military justice,” he said.

Speaking at the same ceremony, Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Gabriel Jok Riak, restated that SSPDF has zero tolerance on conflict related sexual violence and that perpetrators will be dealt with according to the law.

“The prohibition is clearly enshrined in international, regional and domestic legal obligations binding South Sudan. SSPDF remains committed in conducting prompt and thorough investigation into all allegations of sexual violence carried out by the armed forces and persecute allege perpetrators,” he emphasized.

He said the plan will provide concrete and specific commitments aiming at preventing and responding to sexual violence in the country.

“In a holistic manner, we are to implement the action plan and work towards its implementation to end all forms of sexual related violence,” Gen. Jok said.

He said it will be the mandate of the SSPDF to prevent, protect victims, communicate and monitor such abuses.

The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations Allain Noudehou commended the role of the SSPDF in adopting an action plan to curb sexual violence in South Sudan.

He said it is the role of the leaders to speak strongly on how to eliminate such crimes and human rights abuses.

“The adoption of SSPDF’s Action Plan is an achievement that would see all forms of violence stop. It is a step to ensure that such abuses come to an end,” Noudehou said.

He reiterated commitment of the UN Family to continue offering technical assistant to South Sudan to eliminate sexual related cases.

South Sudan Army especially SSPDF and SPLA-IO were occasionally accused of ‘brutal’ Sexual Violence, torture, rape and gang rape and killing against women and girls during the years of conflict.

Information collected and verified by the United Nations system indicates that elements from the SPLA currently known as SSPDF, SPLA-IO, South Sudan Police and other armed groups are the main perpetrators of sexual violence crimes in South Sudan, according to the Action Plan.

Victims, survivors and bystanders face challenges to report, in part because of the socio cultural stigma attached to these crimes and due to absence of concrete and effective respond measures.

According to the Action plan, SSPDF will create a committee to oversee the implementation under the responsibility of the Chief of Defense Forces. Focal point person will be appointed in every unit to work with the committee in implementing the Action Plan. UN will be providing assistance.

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