Attack on Aid Workers in South Sudan Was an Attack on Humanitarianism Itself

Attack on Aid Workers in South Sudan Was an Attack on Humanitarianism Itself
Civilians sheltered in a United Nations base in Juba manned by Chinese peacekeepers, South Sudan, July 25, 2016 (AP photo by Jason Patinkin).

In August, reports emerged that South Sudanese soldiers had violently attacked foreign aid workers during a July rampage in the capital, Juba. They took hostages and raped several women at a hotel popular with foreigners, and also killed a local journalist.

During the four-hour siege, those held captive at the Terrain Hotel repeatedly called for help to the United Nations peacekeeping force—stationed less than a mile down the road—and the U.S. embassy in Juba, but none came. Beyond the horrible violence the hostages endured, the attack reflected a litany of systemic failures to safeguard foreign aid workers who seem to have followed every single security protocol, yet were left unprotected.

Much of the coverage of the Terrain Hotel attack has focused on the sexual assaults on the aid workers. But as chilling as that is, it is critical not to lose perspective on the attack’s broader implications. As with stories around sexual violence told anywhere in the world, there is an instinct to focus on the “sexual” aspect, and not the “violence.” But sexual assault is not a sexual act; it is an act of violence. And in the context of the civil war in South Sudan, this was a case of the deliberate use of violence against aid workers who theoretically enjoy a measure of immunity.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.