Female soldiers rising up South Sudan’s military ranks call for greater respect for human rights

Rebecca Anyeoul is an expert when it comes to juggling her responsibilities.

She’s managed to raise seven children throughout the conflict in South Sudan while also serving in the country’s army for the past 25 years, rising up the ranks to achieve the rank of colonel.

Rebecca Anyeoul is an example of how women can achieve their dreams personally and professionally. However, she says there is still much to be done when it comes to respecting and protecting the rights of women.

She spoke out about her hopes for change during a two-day human rights workshop hosted by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in Bor.

I want a situation where women have the right to own property, such as land when their husbands die. Women’s rights are not respected. But we want this to change, she said.

The tendency where priority is given to men and the general acceptance of decisions by men, must also change.

Forty soldiers serving with the South Sudan People’s Defense Force attended the training which focused on increasing their awareness of human rights and their skills in upholding those rights, particularly when interacting with civilians. The workshop also familiarized the soldiers with national and international human rights legislation and protocols as well as international humanitarian law.

Educative sessions on human rights are particularly important at a time when Government and Opposition troops are gathering at cantonment sites and training centers across the country as part of a process to reunify the former foes into a new joint security force.

The Divisional Commander at the Malual Chat cantonment site expressed his concern about the history of human rights violations during the five-year civil war and called for change in line with the peace agreement signed by all parties in September 2018.

I am concerned about the state of abuses that took place across the country, said Major-General Martin Chol. It was not right. Neither is it acceptable.

A report issued by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan in 2018 found that fighters deliberately targeted civilians based on their ethnic identity and committed many crimes, including killing civilians, abducting people, raping women and girls as well as looting and destroying villages.

UNMISS human rights officer, Alfred Zulu, said the Mission’s role is to investigate, verify and report on these kinds of abuses and he noted that all such reports are shared with the parties involved in the conflict.

Attacks by one group of people against the other and other human rights violations are documented and reported, he said. So, people must know that whatever they have done, one day action will be taken against them.

Alfred Zulu noted that it was, therefore, important for all participants in the training to fully understand their roles and responsibilities to protect civilians, prevent conflict-related sexual violence and human rights violations and to assist in holding perpetrators accountable.

Source: UN Mission in South Sudan