International aid workers in South Sudan endured an unspeakable ordeal at the hands of government troops yesterday, including the gang rape of several women, the murder of a local journalist and the beating-up of several men.
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, several witnesses told The Associated Press.
For hours throughout the assault, the U.N. peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile away refused to respond to desperate calls for help. Neither did embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.
The Associated Press interviewed by phone eight survivors, both male and female, including three who said they were raped. The other five said they were beaten; one was shot. Most insisted on anonymity for their safety or to protect their organizations still operating in South Sudan.
The accounts highlight, in raw detail, the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force to uphold its core mandate of protecting civilians, notably those just a few minutes' drive away. The Associated Press previously reported that U.N. peacekeepers in Juba did not stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.'s main camp last month.
. . .
The assault at the Terrain pierced a feeling of security among some foreigners who had assumed that they would be protected by their governments or the hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers almost next door.
One of the women gang-raped said security advisers from an aid organization living in the compound told residents repeatedly that they were safe because foreigners would not be targeted. She said: "This sentence, 'We are not targeted,' I heard half an hour before they assaulted us."
There's more at the link.
I've seen this so many times in Africa that the memories are seared into my mind . . . yet the 'innocents abroad' keep on going there in the expectation that because they're aid workers, they'll be respected by the locals. "In the event of trouble, the people we're helping will protect us. Everything will be fine." I was told that, in those specific words, by a medical volunteer in West Africa . . . two weeks before she was raped to death (including being raped vaginally and anally by multiple bayonets, after her assailants had had their fun) by Foday Sankoh's RUF thugs in Sierra Leone. She was an attractive woman when I last saw her. Two weeks later, her torn, burned, sliced-open corpse was a nightmare. I could not identify her by sight. It took dental records and a forensic pathologist to do that.
People, if you visit a part of the world - not just Africa, but anywhere - where human life is cheap, where torture and rape are everyday occurrences, where tribal and/or religious and/or ethnic divisions are excuses for savagery and bestiality of the worst kind, then the odds are pretty good that you're going to experience those realities for yourself. The locals don't care that you're there to help them. They don't care about your high-minded ideals, or your purity of vision of the new Utopia you're trying to build for them. To them, you're "other". You're "not one of us". You're "an outsider". When what sensibilities the locals have are swamped by drugs, or alcohol, or emotional frenzy . . . that means you're going to be a target, whether you like it or not. Fulbright scholar and US citizen Amy Biehl found that out in the city of my birth, one of the (purportedly) most civilized places in Africa. It wasn't . . . and in their frenzy, its people killed her.
Don't be an innocent abroad. Don't go to such places unless you're prepared to endure anything and everything that may (and quite possibly will) happen to you. Period.