the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan issued a hard-hitting report last month covering 2022, identifying widespread attacks against civilians, systematic sexual violence against women and girls, the ongoing presence of children in fighting forces, and State-sponsored extrajudicial killings.The brief reveals that while the number of violent incidents attributed to the parties to the conflict declined by 37 per cent in comparison to 2021, the number of victims increased by 58 per cent.
Call to act against impunity: Haysom
UNMISS said that it was particularly concerned by a 96 per cent spike in conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls. In announcing the report’s findings, UNMISS urged all South Sudanese parties to focus on the prospects for sustainable peace, security, and peaceful, fair and inclusive elections. “UNMISS calls on the Government of South Sudan to demonstrate political will and step up efforts against impunity, investigate human rights violations and abuses and hold perpetrators accountable, particularly as deadly violence remains an issue of grave concern in parts of the country,” says Nicholas Haysom, UN Special Representative and Head of UNMISS. As for the violent incidents attributed to community-based militias and/or civil-defence groups, the number fell by 27 per cent and the number of victims decreased by 28 per cent, compared with 2021.
Focus on sustainable peace
Commission members told the Human Rights Council that South Sudan “can be different”, and that the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement, which ended a brutal civil war after the world’s youngest nation gained independence in 2011, remains the best framework to address the conflict. 2022 was marked by three distinct surges of violence, the UNMISS report said: between April and May, in southern Unity State; between July and September, in Warrap State; and between August and December, in the Greater Upper Nile region.Overall levels of documented violent incidents rose by 27 per cent, from 714 recorded acts of violence in 2021, to 982 last year. At least 3,469 civilians reported having been affected by violence during 2022, including killings, injuries, abduction and conflict-related sexual violence.“The challenge of advancing peace and human rights in South Sudan is very heavy, and international attention and support must not flag,” Commission member Barney Afako warned.