As reported over the past five years, South Sudan is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South Sudanese women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to domestic servitude throughout the country. Some of these women and girls are sexually abused by male occupants of the household or forced to engage in commercial sex acts. South Sudanese girls are subjected to sex trafficking in restaurants, hotels, and brothels in urban centers—at times with the involvement of corrupt law enforcement officials. Children working in construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, and begging may be victims of forced labor. Girls are forced into marriages, at times as compensation for inter-ethnic killings; some may be subsequently subjected to sexual slavery or domestic servitude. South Sudanese and foreign business owners recruit men and women from regional countries—especially Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia—as well as South Sudanese women and children, with fraudulent offers of employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and construction; many are forced to work for little or no pay or are subjected to sex trafficking. Some traffickers operate in organized networks within the country and across borders. Authorities occasionally assisted traffickers in crossing international borders, and some South Sudanese officials subjected women and girls to domestic servitude; others purchased sex from child trafficking victims, facilitated child sex trafficking, or protected establishments that exploited victims in the sex trade.
Local civil society organizations reported instances of trafficking during the reporting period, which predominantly affected South Sudanese victims because general insecurity, continued deterioration of the economy, protracted violence, and the July 2016 collapse of the ceasefire between the government and the armed opposition compelled many foreigners to flee the country. Violent conflict continued throughout the year, increasing the number of internally displaced people to 1.9 million and the number of refugees in neighboring states to nearly 1.5 million. These groups, including orphaned children, were at increased risk of trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The UN-estimated 20,000 unaccompanied minors in refugee camps or moving between camps, particularly while crossing the Kenya-South Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo-South Sudan border, were vulnerable to recruitment as child soldiers or abduction for sex or labor trafficking. Inter-ethnic abductions, as well as abductions by external criminal elements, continued between some communities in South Sudan, especially in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states. In previous years, abduction was also pervasive in Warrap, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, and Lakes states. Some abductees were subjected to domestic servitude, forced labor in animal herding, or sex trafficking. South Sudanese girls were reportedly abducted from Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State and taken into Sudan, where they may have been forced into domestic servitude or other forms of slavery.
Since the start of the conflict in December 2013, the UN estimates warring parties have recruited approximately 17,000 child soldiers in South Sudan. In the first half of 2016, the government and armed opposition groups recruited more than 650 children, and during the second half of the year an international organization documented incidents of recruitment and use throughout the country, including in Eastern Equatoria, where no instances of recruitment or use had been historically reported. During the reporting year, both government and armed opposition groups recruited boys and transported them from their home areas to other parts of the country for redeployment or to engage in military training where children act as bodyguards for commanders, man checkpoints, and assume other security support roles. A 2015 NGO research report reported one-third of the boys interviewed were forcibly and violently recruited; SPLA and opposition groups recruited boys at gunpoint, arrested and detained them until they agreed to fight, or abducted and provided them with guns, forcing them to fight on the front-lines. According to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, signed by the warring parties in August 2015, SPLA and the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) committed to the immediate and unconditional release of child soldiers under their command or influence, to be carried out by UNICEF and ICRC. However, throughout the reporting period both groups continued to retain, recruit, and use child soldiers, including on the front-line, and evidence persisted of the re-recruitment of numerous children.
During the reporting period, the UN, in partnership with the National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Commission (NDDRC), continued the demobilization and reintegration of 1,755 child soldiers released by David Yau Yau, the former militia commander of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army-Cobra Faction (SSDM/A-CF), who had approximately 3,000 children under his command when SPLA began to integrate his forces in 2014; integration was ongoing during the reporting period. The SPLA continued to recruit child soldiers despite the NDDRC program to release all children associated with the SSDM/A-CF as it integrated with SPLA. Predominant accounts of recruitment and use of child soldiers were documented in Unity State, and over half of all verified cases were reportedly perpetrated by the SPLA. Child soldiers were also present within the SPLA-IO and within groups affiliated with the opposition. During the reporting period, observers reported the recruitment and use of 486 children; international observers verified instances in several of the country’s states, including Western Equatoria, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Warrap, Central Equatoria, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Almost half of the reported instances of child soldiering were documented in the Greater Upper Nile region, and observers noted a sharp increase in Western Bahr el Ghazal State. During the reporting period, reports also indicated boys and girls were abducted from their houses and schools to fight and perform domestic duties, respectively; observers previously reported local children stopped attending school for fear of abduction.