Slaughter in South Sudan: Girls raped, boys castrated, newborns killed in civil war, UNICEF says

Upper Nile residents wait for assistance after being displaced from their homes in the ongoing civil war in South Sudan.Reuters

Sudanese government troops backed up by their allies allegedly murdered 129 children in South Sudan's Unity State—including girls who were raped first before being killed and boys who were castrated and bled to death—in attacks carried out last month but reported only last week.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) made the revelation after interviewing internally displaced civilians who escaped to the UN base in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State.

The survivors said the children were killed to keep their generation from exacting revenge on their attackers who belong to one side of the ongoing civil war in the country. The witnesses and survivors said some of the children murdered were newborns, Vice News wrote.

The witnesses pointed to the Sudan People's Liberation Army and the allied South Sudan Liberation Army as the perpetrators of the massacre as part of their military offensive in Unity State which began in April, said Christopher Tidey, a communications officer at UNICEF.

"It seems that in a lot of these cases the children were targeted. The logic is that they don't want the children to grow up to be the next generation who will then pick up the fight or exact some sort of revenge," Tidey said.

"The violence against children in South Sudan has reached a new level of brutality," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement. "The details of the worsening violence against children are unspeakable, but we must speak of them."

"In the name of humanity and common decency this violence against the innocent must stop," he pleaded.

One girl was "killed because the attackers could not decide on who would rape the victim first," said Tidey. "So the child was killed to resolve the dispute."

Girls as young as eight were raped before being killed. Meanwhile, other girls were "abducted to be used as wives."

Witnesses who fled to the camp in Bentiu also said boys' genitals were cut off and the children were left to bleed to death. Whole families were also thrown into burning houses.

Over 72,600 South Sudanese are currently seeking shelter in the Unity State capital.

"In one incident, [boys] were tied up and had their throats slit," Tidey said.

Dozens of children who survived the massacre were enlisted to fight by the armed groups.

"Children are also being aggressively recruited into armed groups of both sides on an alarming scale—an estimated 13,000 children forced to participate in a conflict not of their making. Imagine the psychological and physical effects on these children—not only of the violence inflicted on them but also the violence they are forced to inflict on others," said UNICEF's executive director.

The UN announced on June 1 that South Sudan's government has expelled its humanitarian coordinator in the country, Toby Lanzer, a move that many linked to Lanzer's comments on the government offensive in Unity State.

Although he did not directly point at government troops, Lanzer quoted witnesses' accounts on May 18 that the operations in Unity and Upper Nile "targeted rape and killings of civilians including children."

The civil war in South Sudan started in December 2013 in the capital, Juba, when fighting began between the forces of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and rebels under ex-vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer.

Both camps have been accused of gross human rights violations and war crimes.

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