South Sudanese government-affiliated soldiers have been accused of raping dozens of women and girls from the Nuer tribe last week just outside a United Nations camp.
Witnesses have accused the UN peacekeeping troops in South Sudan of being complicit in the assaults, since they allegedly watched as the rapes occurred, according to The Star.
“The woman was seriously screaming, quarreling, and crying also, but there was no help. She was crying for help,” a witness recounted.
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Shantal Persaud, the spokesperson of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMSS) confirmed the rapes, adding that at least 120 cases of rape and sexual violence against civilians have already been documented since the current fighting began two weeks ago.
“The mission takes very seriously allegations of peacekeepers not rendering aid to civilians in distress, and the UNMISS force command is looking into these allegations,” Persaud said.
Civil rights leaders in the UN camp say dozens of women were raped as they ventured out of the camp in search of food.
Hospitals inside the camp are also reporting dozens of rape cases, including an underage girl who was reportedly gang raped by more than five men.
Rape cases have been on the rise in the world’s youngest nation since the civil war began three years ago, with both sides being accused of using rape and other forms of sexual violence as weapons of war.
The recent fighting broke out two weeks ago after forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir clashed with rebels loyal to first Vice President Riek Machar who is now a fugitive.
Hundreds of civilians are feared to have died in the renewed conflict.
Observers have warned that the ongoing conflict might jeopardize the 2015 peace deal, which had brought back relative calm to the east African nation since April.
President Kiir recently appointed General Taban Deng as acting vice president to replace the runaway Machar.
In 2013, the country descended into war, after President Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him, an accusation that the latter has continuously denied.