S Sudan war seeps into homes, spurring domestic violence

YUMBE: A South Sudanese refugee washes clothes at the Bidibidi refugee settlement in the Northern District of Yumbe, Uganda. The vast Bidibidi settlement in far northern Uganda has sprung up over the past year as people flood out of South Sudan, fleeing civil war and severe food shortages. —AFP

JUBA: Fifty people were killed in raids by a tribal militia in eastern South Sudan, a local official said yesterday, the latest in a series of attacks between rival communities. Dut Achuek, a state minister, said eight people died in an attack on Monday in Jonglei state, while a follow-up raid on Tuesday left “23 women killed and… 19 men killed.” Most of the victims were civilians whose homes were burned and livestock stolen, Achuek said. Both attacks, by armed men from the Murle ethnic group, targeted Dinkas living in villages around 150 kilometers north of Bor, the state capital.

Kudumoc Nyakurono, information minister for neighboring Boma state, confirmed the involvement of Murle militia from the area. “We know that these youth went there from Boma State,” he said, adding that investigations were underway to work out the exact circumstances of the attacks. Rival pastoralist communities in South Sudan have a long and bloody history of tit-for-tat raids in which cattle are rustled and property looted, and women are commonly raped and children abducted, adding fuel to revenge attacks. In one of the worst such cases, over 3,000 people were killed when members of a well-armed Nuer militia attacked the Murle in 2012.

Civil war in South Sudan is generating unseen levels of domestic violence, according to a study released yesterday showing a reported increase in the brutality and frequency of assaults. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and a third of the East African country’s 12 million residents have been forced to flee since civil war broke out in 2013. More than half of the South Sudanese women interviewed said they have suffered domestic abuse in their lives, according to the study by George Washington University (GW) and the International Rescue Committee.

But in wartime, the assaults have grown more brutal and frequent, they told researchers. Most of the victims pointed to their husbands or partners as the culprit, while a third said they had suffered violence as part of warfare such as during raids or in refugee camps. Overall, the rates of violence against women in South Sudan was double the global average and among the highest in the world, the research found. “We are tired of being raped,” one woman was quoted as saying.

“We met with the chiefs and raised our concerns – we have had no response yet.” But half of the women who reported suffering harm said they kept it to themselves rather than seek medical help or support. Researchers attribute their silence to stigma and distrust in the legal system. “If there is ever going to be long-term peace in South Sudan, violence against women and girls must be addressed,” said Mary Ellsberg, lead researcher of the study and director of GW’s Global Women’s Institute, in a statement.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after protracted bloodshed, then fell into civil war in late 2013. The study, which included interviews with about 2,700 women and men, shows a need to supplement aid such as food and medical supplies with domestic violence prevention, the researchers said. Globally, one in three women is estimated to have experienced violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence by others, according to World Health Organization estimates.- Agencies