The US ambassador to the United Nations is calling for an independent commission to take testimony from rape victims of a rampage by South Sudanese soldiers at a hotel compound popular with foreigners.
Ambassador Samantha Power spoke Saturday as the UN Security Council visited the country on the brink of renewed civil war. Fighting in the capital, Juba, in July killed hundreds.
Meeting with South Sudan’s Council of Ministers, Power urged the government to hold accountable the soldiers who attacked the Terrain compound during the chaos, targeting Americans and raping women.
An Associated Press investigation found that victims also were beaten and forced to watch a local journalist be shot dead.
South Sudan has set up a commission of inquiry into the attack amid concerns about its transparency. Power said many victims of the “ghastly acts” feel frightened to come forward for fear of retaliation.
Power also called for accountability for attacks on civilians. Another AP investigation found South Sudanese soldiers raped several local women and girls outside a UN camp in July.
“We’ve met with women who described a huge surge in sexual violence against women who leave the camp in order to try to get firewood,” Power said after Security Council members visited the camp where tens of thousands shelter.
“As a mother, I can’t imagine that choice a choice in whether I cook for my kids or whether I risk sexual violence outside the camp,” Power said. “I know I would go and take that risk for my children. I think any mother would.”
Several dozen camp residents demonstrated in support of the deployment of 4,000 additional peacekeepers approved last month by the council.
South Sudan’s government has objected to the force.
“If the force doesn’t come, we shall die,” said Samuel Gatoonyakuok, 26.