United Nations to the Rescue
"Obviously, we regret the loss of life and the violence that the people who were in Hotel Terrain endured, and we take this incident very seriously."
"As you're aware, we have called on the national authorities to investigate this incident thoroughly and to bring the perpetrators to justice."
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman, UN secretary-general
"They didn't venture out of the compound to help women being assaulted right outside, nor did they respond to rescue the people at Terrain just one kilometer away."
"There may be good reasons for this to do with the government's restrictions and the impact of fighting around the base, but [it] certainly stands out as an example of failure to uphold its protection role."
Jehanne Henry, senior researcher, Human Rights Watch
"Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you and then we shoot you in the head."
"One in particular [of the South Sudan soldiers], he was calling you 'Sweetie, we should run away and get married'. It was like he was on a first date. He didn't see that what he was doing was a bad thing."
Female aid worker, South Sudan
"We kill you! We kill you! [the drunken soldiers shouted]."
"They would shoot up at the ceiling and say, 'Do you want to die?' and we had to answer 'No!'"
"All of us were contacting whoever we could contact. The UN, the US embassy, contacting the specific battalions in the UN, contacting specific departments."
Western female aid worker
|Aid workers from various NGOs active in South Sudan arrive at Wilson airport in Nairobi, Kenya, July 13, 2016, from Juba. AP|
There is also the presence of United Nations peacekeepers, those famed blue-helmeted military personnel whose various countries have responded nobly to the call of the United Nations to lend a hand and a spear to the unenviable job of helping to protect civilian populations in theatres of conflict. South Sudanese troops after having won a battle in Juba, the capital, embarked on a rampage of celebration, on July 11. Good thing the UN peacekeepers were close at hand, right?
For four hours the south Sudanese soldiers stormed through a residential compound holding among others, a contingent of foreign aid workers. A local journalist was shot dead, as a bit of theatre for the foreigners forced to witness the execution. And then, singling out in particular Americans, the soldiers raped and gang-raped the women while beating men and looting them of their possessions. Mock executions added to the jollity of the theatrical performances.
The United Nations peacekeeping force was stationed under two kilometres' distance from this drunken free-for-all. Despite anguished calls for help, none of the peacekeepers responded as the assaults went on for nightmarish hours on end. Fear must have been rampant among the foreign delegations since no embassies in the region, including that of the Americans made an effort to respond to the desperate pleas of those being attacked. Benghazi redux?
The foreign aid workers were stationed in a hotel complex and it seems obvious enough that they were particularly targeted as an expression of the high regard in which they are held by South Sudan's President Salva Kiir whose run-amok troops they represent. The conflict with rebel leader, former vice-president Rick Machar's troops has turned the country into a bloody conflict zone. But the president's troops have no monopoly on human rights abuses; their rivals appear just as guilty.
The government has refused to permit soldiers from neighbouring countries, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya to take part in the UN's peacekeeping force. It was mostly comprised of troops from Ethiopia, China and Nepal, and "all refused to go" as requested as a Quick Reaction Force to respond to the desperation of the people being attacked.
A worker at the Terrain hotel complex from Uganda had seen about one hundred men break into the compound after knocking open the gate with tire irons and gunshots. The security guards tasked with the Terrain's protection were armed with shotguns, and outnumbered, leaving the soldiers free to wander without intervention, from door to door taking possession of cash, cellphones, laptops and car keys.
The apartment block in the Terrain was the next target and soldiers began breaking into the apartments ransacking the rooms and assaulting those inside. The women were violently sexually assaulted, some raped by as many as 15 men throughout the hours of vicious torment to which the complete absence of their UN protectors added a cruel twist of despair.
At agonizingly long last, South Sudanese security forces entered the hotel complex and rescued most of the women and about 16 staff of the Terrain hotel complex. Since the president of South Sudan is vexed with his belief that the West favours the rebels, it is entirely likely that he manipulated events to produce that savagery as a message to the Americans in particular that he is displeased with their focus.
|Debris lies in the Terrain compound after it was looted by South Sudanese troops during one of the worst targeted attacks on aid workers in country’s three-year civil war. Photograph: Adriane Ohanesian/AP|