Women attend a village health briefing in South Sudan, 2 May 2023. (Photo by Lomoraronald/ Wikimedia Commons)


Sexual violence is a potent weapon of war deliberately employed to mete out punishment and humiliation to individuals and their communities in South Sudan[1], a Catholic medical doctor told delegates at a gathering facilitated by the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

Sexual violence that is known about in South Sudan is "deliberate and intended to punish and humiliate people and their communities," said Thomas Tongun Leone, a medical doctor and coordinator of the Catholic Health Commission of South Sudan, at the recent WCC hybrid discussion[2] watched globally as part of the 16 Days Against Gender-based Violence.  

"It can include rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization, forced marriage, and many other forms," said the South Sudan doctor of sexual violence that has plagued Africa's newest country in recent civil conflicts. "Sexual violence affects the health of those who experience it, damaging their life experiences," said Leone. "In physical health, survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence experienced immediate and long-term physical injuries and face the prospect of being at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases." Survivors also suffer psychologically and is in dire need a trauma healing centre to help people who are survivors of sexual violence in the country. "Coming out of war, we have many traumatized people," he said.

Prolonged conflict, violence

The conflict in South Sudan is marked by numerous deeply divided armed factions engaged in intricate political alliances that revolve around ethnic and regional concerns. This war encompasses the intentional displacement of the local population from their land, frequently with the aim of altering ethnic demographics and political dominance. Local communities are subjected to terror through massacres, village plundering and arson, the takeover of regional resources, and instances of rape and sexual violence.

Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Commission in South Sudan published a report titled Conflict-related Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in South Sudan, revealing harrowing experiences of wartime rape in the nation. "Widespread rape is being committed by all armed groups across the country," often as part of military strategies for which government and military leaders bear responsibility, the report said. Its findings were based on interviews conducted with victims and witnesses over several years. Survivors recounted horrifically brutal and prolonged gang rapes carried out by multiple perpetrators, often with their husbands, parents, or children forced to witness the assaults, unable to intervene. Women of various ages had also shared accounts of being subjected to multiple rapes while witnessing other women enduring the same horrifying experiences around them. 

South Sudan formally became independent from Sudan on July 9, 2011, following a protracted war of independence. More than half of the people in South Sudan are Christian, while Sudan is predominantly Muslim. South Sudan enjoyed two years of peace but political rivalry soon erupted into open conflict in 2013 when President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, fired Riek Machar, from the Nuer ethnic group, from the vice presidency.

Tensions between political factions led to a civil war fought often along ethnic lines and about 400,000 people have since been killed, and more than a third of the country's 12 million people displaced. The bloody conflict was often punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation that did not last. In 2018, Kiir, a Catholic, and Machar, a Presbyterian, formed a unity government but there has been slow progress on implementing the country's main peace agreement that was signed that year.

Pope Francis and South Sudan

In April 2019, Pope Francis invited South Sudan's leaders to the Vatican for a spiritual retreat. It was during that meeting that Pope Francis kissed the feet of the warring leaders and implored them to give peace a chance. Pope Francis has been tireless in pushing for peace in the world's newest nation and is closely following the developments in South Sudan.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan[3]. The six-day visit – from January 31 to February 5 – took him to two of the most violence-plagued nations in Africa. Initially planned for July 2022, the trip was postponed until now because of the pope's knee problem. 

In South Sudan's capital Juba, during the last day of his African journey, Francis presided over Mass at the monument dedicated to independence hero John Garang, with an estimated 100,000 attendees, including the country's political leadership. The pope issued a last plea for peace in South Sudan to promote the nation's recovery from civil conflict. "Even if our hearts bleed for the wrongs we have suffered, let us refuse, once and for all, to repay evil with evil...Let us accept one another and love one another with sincerity and generosity, as God loves us," Francis said.

The conflict in South Sudan has displaced more than 3.9 million people -- the majority of them women and children. "So far, displaced women have been excluded from efforts to build peace -- both in South Sudan, and within the refugee camps where ethnic polarization and stereotyping continue to cause conflicts," reports Conciliation Resources, an international organisation committed to stopping violent conflict.


  1. ^ South Sudan (international.la-croix.com)
  2. ^ WCC hybrid discussion (www.oikoumene.org)
  3. ^ Pope Francis visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan (international.la-croix.com)

Source http://www.bing.com/news/apiclick.aspx?ref=FexRss&aid=&tid=65843647f25b4e29af695a65fe107025&url=https%3A%2F%2Finternational.la-croix.com%2Fnews%2Fworld%2Fsexual-violence-deliberately-used-to-punish-people-in-south-sudan-say-church-workers%2F18904&c=13338517323586387900&mkt=en-ca