“When we became part of the nations, part of the world, we rushed to implement what we call democracy because our women, our daughters and our wives they participated equally in the liberation, and contributed equally to the hope for a peaceful, prosperous future for everyone,” said General Johnson Okot, leader of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) as he addressed 40 of his commanders, men and women, who gathered in Juba to attend an UNMISS-facilitated training on preventing conflict-related sexual violence.
Pledging long-term commitment to ending the sexual violence in the country, the SSPDF and the UN Peacekeeping mission agreed to developed a curriculum that would be used by the army to escalate training programs on the same topics.
Addressing the event, Lt. Gen. Shailesh Tinaikar, UNMISS Force Commander, reminds soldiers that they do not have any right to take life or to commit sexual violence, among others.
“No soldier has the right to anybody’s personal property, to claim innocent lives, to cause harm to a child and, most importantly, to violate the dignity of any woman. That is the message that we want you to carry to everyone who serves under your command,” emphasized Shailesh Tinaikar, UNMISS Force Commander, while speaking to participants.
Speaking to the participants, Ms. Huma Khan, Senior Women’s Protection Adviser, UNMISS, encouraged the SSPDF commanders to take what they have learned and the programs that will be developed to go and train the military at staff colleges and ad-hoc trainings.
“We hope it will become an integral aspect of all future trainings the SSPDF conduct among their ranks; used in staff colleges as well as in ad-hoc learning provided by them to soldiers,” she added, “because no country can be truly independent without protecting the rights of its women.” Ms. Khan said.
Ms. Khan regrets that South Sudanese soldiers have committed such crimes since 2013. She encourages the military leaders to seek help so that more training could be escalated to the lowest ranks in the military.
“Since 2013, South Sudan has had a history of conflict-related sexual violence and rape. This has resulted in it being listed in the Secretary-General’s annual reports,” said Huma Khan, Senior Women’s Protection Adviser, UNMISS.
“The way forward for such a country is to explore training opportunities with the United Nations for members of its army, to come up with an action plan and implement concrete steps to address this problem,” she stated.