A South Sudanese man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for raping a minor, a rare example of a rape conviction in the African country.
Rapes and sexual assault are vastly underreported in South Sudan, and very few perpetrators are punished for their crimes, although the conviction of two soldiers last year who raped a woman in the town of Yei has raised hope for activists.
While announcing the verdict Thursday in the Jonglei state capital, Bor, Judge John Yel ordered convicted rapist Magai Manyang to also pay five cows to the victim’s family as compensation, in line with Dinka customary law.
"The convict will pay five heads of cattle as compensation for the victim or its equivalence on the day of execution,” said Yel.
Prosecuting attorney Manyang Ngueny welcomed the ruling, saying justice had prevailed.
“I agree with the judgment pronounced today by the president of the High Court,” Ngueny told South Sudan in Focus. “Judgment has to be pronounced in accordance with the crime actually committed.”
Manyang, who proclaimed his innocence, said he would appeal the verdict in Juba’s Court of Appeals within 15 days, as allowed by the court.
“This thing that is alleged I have done hasn’t happened,” Nanyang told South Sudan in Focus. “The girl escaped from UNMISS [U.N. Mission in South Sudan] camp and came to my home. I was absent during that time. When I came and found her at home, I asked who she is and my wife told me she was her relative, and I then didn’t bother to send her away.”
He said the victim “made up such allegations and her relatives want to force me to marry her.”
David Garang of the Jonglei Civil Society Network praised Manyang’s sentencing, saying it sent a strong message to men who abuse women.
“There are a lot of gender-based violence cases happening in Jonglei state but most of them are not reported, so this one will be a lesson to scare the perpetrators,” Garang told South Sudan in Focus.
Garang urged state authorities and NGOs to sensitize citizens about sexual violence so that such cases are reported, adding that all South Sudanese who commit violence against women or children should be arrested, tried and sent to prison.