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Rape being used as tool of war in Sudanese conflict

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Auveen Woods
WVoN co-editor

The eyes of the world are – rightly – on Homs in Syria and the deplorable atrocities being carried out there.

But while our attention and the cameras are turned to the east, other atrocities are being committed against the women of the oil rich Sudanese state of South Kordofan.

Since South Sudan became independent last July, levels of violence have increased in the Sudanese province of South Kordofan with rumours of ethnic cleansing, sexual violence and aerial bombardments that have evoked the memory of the carnage in Darfur.

According to Trust Law the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has recorded increasing levels of sexual violence against women and girls who have fled the area:

“Women and girls described attacks in front of family members, by multiple perpetrators and for prolonged periods of time,” Bob Kitchen, the director of IRC’s emergency preparedness and response team, said.

“Some referred to the perpetrators as simply “men with guns” and “military”, the IRC reported.

The story of 22 year-old Nuban Elizabeth Kafi, who was kidnapped by uniformed Sundanese soldiers was reported by the the New York Times:

“Kafi said that she saw 20 to 25 soldiers hold down two Nuban girls, whom she guessed to be about 14 or 15 years old, and gang rape them. The girls died from the rapes and beatings, she said”.

Since the Bosnia War in 1992, rape has been internationally recognized as a systematic tool of warfare.

Reports differ on the exact number of internally displaced people but it is estimated that over 400,000 people have fled their homes with most of the displaced people hiding in the remote Nuba mountains of South Kordofan, as it is difficult to get reliable information.

The Sudanese military has tried to cut access routes from the Nuba mountains where most of the displaced people are staying, not only in an effort to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the rebels but also to block foreign media, as journalist Ann Curry reported when she visited the area last week.

IRC estimates that some 28,000 refugees from South Kordofan had settled in South Sudan’s Yida refugee camp where many women and girls continue to be raped.

Sexual assaults were reported to have taken place while they collected firewood or sought somewhere to go to the toilet.

Women in the camp have also spoken of worsening domestic violence by their husbands.

According to a UN report, violence began to increase in South Kordofan in May 2011 in the lead-up to South Sudan’s independence.

Southern Kordofan is inhabited by approximately 2,500,000 people, with over 100 ethnic communities the largest of which is the Nuba people.

The Governor,  Ahmed Haroun, is one of three Sudanese including President al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur between 2003 and 2004.

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