JUBA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Three UN officials have called on South Sudan government to launch investigations in a spate of brutal sexual assaults on women and girls when they were travelling on the road to Bentiu, a town in the northern part of the country.
Pramila Patten, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict; Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; and Adama Dieng, the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, urged Juba to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and held accountable.
"We also call on the government to uphold its primary responsibility for protecting and ensuring the safety of its population, irrespective of their ethnic or political affiliation," the envoys said in a joint statement issued on Monday night.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Sunday about 125 women and girls sought treatment over the last ten days (Nov. 19-29) after having been sexually assaulted, as they walked along roads near Nhialdu and Guit on their way to the town near the Sudanese border. They were also robbed and beaten.
The attacks were reportedly carried out by young men, some of whom wore civilian clothes while others were dressed in military uniforms in a government-controlled area.
The special representatives said accountability is critical to obtain lasting peace and reconciliation among the communities in South Sudan.
"We therefore call on the government to take all appropriate measures to end the chronic impunity prevailing in the country," said the UN special envoys.
They urged the government to ensure that all victims receive essential medical, psychosocial and legal support necessary for their recovery, noting that it was very disturbing that sexual violence remains rampant in the country.
"This year, in particular, has been marked by an alarming increase in the number of rape cases perpetrated on vulnerable women and girls, despite the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement in September 2018," the UN special envoys said.
South Sudan's conflict has now entered its fifth year since it erupted in 2013 after forces loyal to President Kiir and his former deputy Machar engaged in combat.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital Juba, forcing Machar to flee into exile.
Millions of South Sudanese civilians have sought refuge in neighboring countries due to the conflict.