The soldier pointed his AK-47 at the aid worker and gave her a choice.
“Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you and then we shoot you in the head,” she remembers him saying.
She didn’t really have a choice: By the end of the evening, she had been raped by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.
On July 11, South Sudanese troops, fresh from winning a battle in the capital, Juba, over opposition forces, went on a nearly four-hour rampage through a residential compound popular with foreigners, in one of the worst targeted attacks on aid workers in South Sudan’s three-year civil war.
They shot dead a local journalist while forcing the foreigners to watch, raped several foreign women, singled out Americans, beat and robbed people, and carried out mock executions, according to several witnesses.
For hours throughout the assault, the UN peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile away refused to respond to desperate calls for help. Neither did embassies, including the US Embassy.
Eight survivors, both male and female — including three who said they were raped, five who said they were beaten, one was shot — insisted on anonymity for their safety or to protect their organisations still operating in South Sudan.
The accounts highlight, in raw detail, the failure of the UN peacekeeping force to uphold its core mandate of protecting civilians, notably those just a few minutes’ drive away.
The attack on the Terrain hotel complex shows the hostility toward foreigners and aid workers by troops under the command of South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, who has been fighting supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar since civil war erupted in December 2013.
Army spokesman Lul Ruai did not deny the attack at the Terrain but said it was premature to conclude the army was responsible.
“Everyone is armed, and everyone has access to uniforms,” he said.
A report on the incident compiled by the Terrain’s owner at Ruai’s request, alleges the rapes of at least five women, torture, mock executions, beatings, and looting.
The attack came just as people in Juba were thinking the worst was over.
Three days earlier, gunfire erupted outside the presidential compound between armed supporters of the two sides, at the time pushed together under an uneasy peace deal. The violence quickly spread. By Monday, as both sides prepared to call for a ceasefire, some at the Terrain started to relax.
And then the soldiers arrived. A Terrain staffer from Uganda said he saw between 80 and 100 men invade the compound after breaking open the gate.
“They were very excited, very drunk, under the influence of something, almost a mad state, walking around shooting off rounds inside the rooms,” one American said.
— Helen Clark (@HelenClarkNZ) August 16, 2016
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