Launch of SSPDF Action Plan on addressing CRSV in South Sudan
On 11 October 2014, the President of the Republic of South Sudan, H.E Salva Kiir, signed a Joint Communique with the United Nations in which he committed on behalf of the Government to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) crimes. The Joint Communique contains a set of practical and political commitments to prevent and end the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict and provides for specific action plans for the SPLA (now SSPDF), and the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) to ensure proper investigations of sexual violence crimes, the establishment of accountability mechanisms, ensuring that perpetrators of sexual violence are excluded from amnesty provisions and that sexual violence is explicitly addressed in the peace process and, as an aspect of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
Pursuant to the Communique’, the SPLA took a number of measures preventing sexual violence in conflict, including:
•The issuance of orders prohibiting sexual violence and the obligation of commanders to ensure that all troops refrain from such acts (e.g., Ministerial Order 02/2015 dated 26 May 2015 and signed by the then Minister of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs; Command Order dated 1 December 2016 by then SPLA Chief of General Staff).
•A dedicated committee was established to develop an SPLA action plan which received technical support of the United Nations (especially the Office of the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict).
•The conduction of nation-wide trainings targeting SSPDF personnel on CRSV. A pool of 344 SSPDF trainers is already existing within SSPDF.
Despite a number of preventive measures, the use of sexual violence in South Sudan continues to be perpetrated by parties to the conflict, including the SSPDF (please refer for example to OHCHR/UNMISS field investigations in Unity ). It is to be noted that as of 2017, SSPDF continued to be listed in the annex to annual reports of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict. Other parties listed are: SSNPS, pro-Taban Deng SPLA-IO, pro-Riek Machar SPLA-IO, Justice and Equality Movement.and Lord’s Resistance Army.
The SSPDF Action plan on addressing CRSV in South Sudan was finalized in June 2018. Delays in its official launch can be attributable to competing priorities which absorbed government’s agenda during the second half of 2018, including engagements in the revitalized ARCSS. It is to be noted that the United Nations has significantly invested in the drafting process of the Action Plan (e.g., technical advice, supporting consultations by the drafting committees).
Prior to the launch, a two-day High-Level Workshop was organized by UNMISS and SSPDF (12-13 March) in Juba, drawing participation from 60 senior commanders deployed across the country , given their expected responsibility in the future implementation of SSPDF Action Plan on CRSV. The workshop provided knowledge to senior commanders on the prevention and response to CRSV, including the existing legal framework, and generate discussions on envisaged opportunities and challenges in the implementation of the SSPDF action plan. Participants are expected to the launch in Bilpam on 14 March 2019.
While the launch is a positive step toward, the focus should also be placed in effective implementation. To pave the way for possible de-listing, SSPDF will be measured through tangible efforts undertaken to ensure implementation.
Photo: UNMISS / Eric Kanalstein