Despite the United Nations' "zero tolerance" policy against sexual violence, there has been a rash of gender-based crimes in several of the world's conflict zones, including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Northern Uganda, Somalia, the Central African Republic - and, more recently, in politically-troubled Egypt and Syria.
Since age 18, Zechariah Manyok Biar fought in the revolutionary army that won South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in July 2011. But now the 28-year-old is in exile from the country he helped liberate.
Akech B. loved to study and dreamed of becoming a nurse. But when she was 14, her uncle who was raising her forced her to leave school to marry a man Akech described as old and gray-haired. The man paid 75 cows as dowry for Akech. He was already married to another woman with whom he had several children.
Susana Apai Wani has lived as a widow for more than two decades since her husband, James Wani, was arrested in 1992 by a policeman who accused him of collaborating with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which was a rebel political movement at the time.
“My husband and older son, unable to cope with the war, became mentally ill. Two of my sons became child soldiers and an eight-year-old daughter was abducted – they were never to be seen again,” Mariamu Dong says, referring to the 21-year civil war between north and south Sudan, which are now separate countries.
“Our daughters are our only source of wealth. Where else do you expect me to get cows from?” asks 60-year-old Jacob Deng from South Sudan’s Jonglei state.
Experts here are calling on the United States and the international community to increase pressure on the government of South Sudan to address weaknesses in its central governance.
Sungu Mizele, a Congolese national living in Yambio, in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state, earns a living selling the fruit and vegetables that she grows in her backyard, at the local town market. On average, she earns nine dollars a day. But on a good day, when she has fresh supplies, she can earn up to 31 dollars.
The African Union summit failed to provide a breakthrough in the ongoing negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan when it ended on Monday Jan. 28.
South Sudan may have received slightly more than 10 billion dollars in oil revenue from 2005 to January 2012, when oil production shut down, according to both government officials and the World Bank.
But development experts have urged the government to begin investing in the country and its people, as basic social services remain scarce.
As South Sudan continues negotiations with Sudan regarding the resumption of oil production and transit, the South Sudanese government says that it is developing its own industry and will start producing fuel for domestic consumption within the next eight months in order to avoid continued reliance on its neighbour.
The huge Russian-made helicopter descended slowly towards conical mud huts clustered together and surrounded by endless grassland, lush and green with the season’s rains here in the South Sudanese village of Yuai.
The international community is reacting triumphantly following an agreement on Thursday between Sudan and South Sudan to resume oil production and trade, despite the accord’s failure to address two of the situation’s most intractable issues, on border demarcation and control over lucrative oil-producing regions.
Police in South Sudan have begun press-ganging every "idle" youth they can find to provide labour on police farms. The State Police Commissioner in Northern Bahr al Gazal state says young men cannot be left to drink tea and play cards all day while food insecurity threatens the country.
South Sudanese soldiers are allegedly beating and torturing civilians in the midst of a disarmament campaign in Jonglei state, and many have been unable to access justice because of a lack of prosecutors and judges, according to the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.