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UN official calls to focus on South Sudan civilians protection from sexual violence

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bintou Keita talks to reporters in Juba on 19 April 2018 (UNMISS Photo)
April 20, 2018 (JUBA) - At the end of her four-day visit to South Sudan, UN chief aide for peacekeeping operations, Bintou Keita Thursday called to focus on protection of civilians particularly women and children who are victims of sexual violence.

Keita’s visit came after the renewal of UNMISS mandate for another year until March 2019. The resolution 2406 (2018) pointed to the need to prevent sexual and gender-based violence against civilians and encouraged the mission to explore what techniques it can use to enhance its ability to achieve this goal.

“I am particularly appalled by the violence this conflict has bought against women and girls in South Sudan. The atrocities committed and documented by multiple investigations are beyond the imaginable,” she said in a press conference held in Juba at the end her visit to the troubled country.

She further praised the recent government efforts to stop sexual violence crimes committed by the SPLA members saying it represents "a step in the right direction," and called for "an emergency response" including the government, the United Nations and partners.

In a report to the Security Council, about conflict-related sexual violence, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said sexual violence in South Sudan remains characterized in 2017 with marked political and ethnic undertones.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said she met with the First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai, and a delegation of Cabinet Ministers led by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Martin Elia Lomoro. She discussed with them discussed ways to implement the renewed UNMISS mandate.

"The purpose of my visit was to discuss with the government, civil society partners, and the United Nations family, the modalities of the implementation of UNMISS’ new mandate, UN support to the South Sudan peace process and how we can reduce together the horrific tolls this conflict has had on civilians, notably women and girls," she said.

The UN officials believe that the protection of civilians can be strengthened can include technical assistance, within existing resources, on international humanitarian law, investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, as well as other serious human rights violations.

Also, the UN chief plans to conduct a military and police capability study to review the current model for providing security to the protection of civilians’ sites.

UNMISS in 2017 documented 196 cases of conflict-related sexual violence including rape (88), gang rape (63), abduction for the purpose of sexual assault (31) UNMISS and attempted rape (14). The peacekeeping mission 577 verified cases in 2016.

the visiting international official further reiterated UN support for the regional efforts to end the over four-year conflict and called to engage "genuinely and constructively" in the peace revitalization forum.

"There is no military solution to the conflict," Keita said.