More than 40 members of South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) have benefited from a two-day training organized by the Civil Affairs Division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Kuajok, Gogrial.
The workshop which was intended to train SSPDF personnel on the roll-out phase of the action plan on addressing conflict-related sexual violence in South Sudan, also introduced participants to the obligations stemming from international legal frameworks, such as the international humanitarian law, during conflict situation.
“We thank UNMISS for their tireless effort in enlightening us about these important international laws. In fact, when the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] was founded, we had strong laws to guide our forces but as the war progressed, some individuals deviated from the norms resulting to the commission of conflict-related violence,” Deputy Division III Commander Major General Chokrac Alith Kuduom told the gathering.
He said during conflict, the attitudes of individual soldiers differed from one person to another, and that some criminal attitudes did not reflect the general behaviour of the whole organization.
“The training was unique and excellent, and it should be implemented in all areas of military operations so that all forms of violence are mitigated,” he said. “What we have learned over the past two days will actually help us to see that our soldiers are enlightened not to commit any acts of sexual violence during conflict,” he stressed.
For his part, the SSPDF Chief of Moral Orientation, Major General Ajak Deng Biar, said the training was a timely and necessary guide to military personnel in South Sudan.
“So many of our officers were ignorant about what they call conflict-related sexual violence but with this training they now know how to conduct themselves during conflict,” he said.
He pointed out that, as members of the SSPDF, they will continue to cooperate with UNMISS and its partners in whatever is intended to bring their forces to international standards.
Earlier, UNMISS Head of Field Office in Kuajok Anastasie Nyirigira urged the participants to adopt international standards for military rules of engagement, to respect the rights of civilians before and after conflict.
“Protecting human rights means enforcing your obligations and respecting the rights of men, women, and children. I know you have been trained in international humanitarian law where you are always required, during conflict, to separate civilians from your military targets,” she pointed out. “We are calling upon you again to protect mostly the rights of women, girls and boys,” she added.