- Mariana Goetz & Victoria Taban
Survivors share their Statement with Ministers in Juba
Updated: Jun 21, 2022
On Wednesday 15 June 2022, at an event hosted at the Swiss Embassy and opened by Rev. James Ninrew, chair of the Transitional Justice Working Group, survivors of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) spoke out about their needs and concerns as regards the future Commission for Truth Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) in South Sudan.
The event was organised to mark the International Day for the elimination of Sexual Violence in conflict and to launch and disseminate hard copies of our Study on South Sudan on the Status of Opportunities for Reparations for Survivors of Conflict Related Sexual Violence. The Study finds that CRSV is ongoing and endemic, with devastating physical, psychological, social, and economic effects shrouded with intense stigma and discrimination.
Having established a National Network of Survivors of South Sudan the previous day, representing survivors from Juba, Bor, Yei, Bentiu and refugees in Adjumani (northern Uganda), the survivors presented their first Statement to government representatives.
The Survivors' Statement encourages actors from across divides to support Truth and Reconciliation:
“Let us build truth and then come and reconcile. If we get true words, we will have reconciliation. In South Sudan there’s no truth, even the Bible says: “Speak the truth and it shall set you free”. After truth we reconcile and after reconciliation, people will start healing.”
Jackline Nasiwa, the Executive Director of the Centre for Inclusive Governance Peace and Justice (CIGPJ) spoke of the survivor’s demands for peace to be assured to create room for truth and reconciliation. Two survivors chosen by the National Network emphasised the need for their voices to be reflected the CTRH process, and the need for protection measures and trauma trained Commissioners. They said:
"The CTRH must include all of South Sudan. It should go to all States, Counties, Payams and Bomas getting down to village level. South Sudanese voices must be included in the process for Truth and Reconciliation."
Senior UNMISS Protection Adviser, Sheila Keetharuth, highlighted the ongoing protection efforts of UNMISS in relation to conflict related sexual violence and echoed the need for a survivor-centered approaches in implementing Chapter V of the Peace Agreement, and the importance of adopting a broader approach to protection which includes, victims, survivors, witnesses, judicial actors and individuals participating in this process.
Hon. Alokiir Malual, chairperson of the Technical Committee on the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (TC-CTRH) gave an overview of the Committee’s mandate and the recently completed Public Consultations on the CTRH Law. She touched on the importance of an all-inclusive approach and voiced the need to conduct consultations at refugee camps and in the Diaspora as well.
The Minister of Health, Hon Yolanda Awel Deng Juach committed to improving the number of One-Stop Centres for gender based violence victims. She also emphasized the need for a mental health approach to programmes and government plans in this regard.
The Central Equatoria State Human Rights Adviser, Hon. Jennifer Yabu, commended the National Network of Survivors on their bravery and defying cultural norms by coming forward and speaking about sexual violence. She promised to include and call them for activities in Central Equatoria State. She reiterated the Council of States commitment to supporting survivors and ensuring human rights are upheld while highlighting the commencement of another Court Martial for sexual violence in Yei.
Rights for Peace Director, Mariana Goetz, launched the Study on the Status of opportunities for Reparations for survivors of conflict related sexual violence. She highlighted that the thousands of children born of rape are also victims of CRSV and may wish to tell their stories; special programmes are needed to address the abuse and stigma they suffer and reintegrate them into society. She empahsised that the law establishing the CTRH should enable survivor-centred reparations, and that recommending interim reparations should be possible, so that survivors need not wait until the end of the process for urgent measures to be adopted.
The event was brought to a conclusion by Hon. First Deputy Speaker of Council of States, Hon. Mary Ayen Mijok who reiterated the government’s commitment to addressing CRSV and mentioned current programmes to that effect. The completion of the Gender Based Violence Bill, that awaits tabling before the National Assembly, is certainly a great step in that direction. She also emphasised on the need to develop more safe houses and one stop centres and reiterated the government’ support in this process.
Network of Survivors then handed the Network’s Statement to Hon. Alokiir Malual and Hon. Mary Ayen Mijok in a historic moment given the establishment of the first National Survivors Network in South Sudan.
This event was organised by the Centre for Inclusive Governance Peace and Justice and Rights for Peace, was funded by the Global Survivors Fund and organised in collaboration with the Transitional Justice Working Group, Dialogue and Research Institute and other partners.