South Sudan

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


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 in Yei, Bor, Wau, Torit, Nimule, Juba, and elsewhere in 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, some as young as 10 years old, are subjected to sex trafficking in restaurants, hotels, and brothels in urban centers—at times with the involvement of corrupt law enforcement officials. Child prostitution remains a problem. 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 as young as 9 years old in Eastern Equatoria state were forced into marriages, at times as compensation for inter-clan killings; some may have been subsequently subjected to sexual slavery or domestic servitude.

Women and girls from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo migrate willingly to South Sudan with the promise of legitimate work and are subjected to sex trafficking. South Sudanese and foreign business owners entice men and women from these countries, as well as South Sudanese women and children, with 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. Kenyan and Ugandan children are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in construction and street vending in South Sudan. Local civil society organizations reported instances of trafficking continued to increase during the reporting period; with a continuation of violence driving some foreigners to flee the country, local observers reported a greater proportion of sex trafficking victims are women and girls from South Sudan. Some traffickers may operate in organized networks within the country and across borders. Authorities occasionally assisted traffickers in crossing international borders, and some officials subjected women and girls to domestic servitude; others purchased sex from child trafficking victims, facilitated the prostitution of children, or protected establishments that exploited victims in the sex trade.

Violent conflict continued throughout the year, resulting in the displacement of more than two million people and orphaning an unknown number of children; these groups were at increased risk of trafficking. Unaccompanied minors in refugee camps or those moving between camps, particularly while crossing the Kenya-South Sudan border, were vulnerable to 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. Some abductees were subsequently subjected to domestic servitude, forced animal herding, or sex trafficking. There have been previous reports of Sudanese slave traders abducting South Sudanese girls, particularly in Upper Nile state and forcing them into domestic servitude or selling them into other forms of slavery in Khartoum or other urban centers. During the now-concluded North-South civil war, members of the Missiriya and Rizeigat ethnic groups abducted and enslaved thousands of Dinka women and children and a smaller number of Nuban children. Some of those enslaved remain in Sudan with their captors.

Prior to the outbreak of conflict in December 2013, the government’s security forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), had made tangible progress in demobilizing child soldiers. The children who remained were operating largely in support roles and few were involved in active fighting. In 2014, the SPLA’s recruitment and use of child soldiers, often by force, significantly increased. The UN estimated there were approximately 12,000 child soldiers within the SPLA, as well as in armed opposition groups in South Sudan as of December 2014; most were between 15 and 16 years old, but some were as young as 11. Between April and September 2014, the SPLA forcefully recruited children in Greater Upper Nile and Unity states; the UN reported one senior military leader in the SPLA initiated a mobilization campaign targeting children in schools. In Koch, Unity state, the SPLA forcefully recruited 70 boys and an unknown number of adults. The UN verified 23 girls working as servants in SPLA military barracks outside of Malakal, Upper Nile state. In June 2014, UNICEF verified at least 250 children within the SPLA’s ranks and in February 2015, armed soldiers affiliated with the SPLA abducted as combatants 40 boys, some as young as 13, from an internally displaced persons camp in Upper Nile state. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which led peace talks between the government and the opposition during the reporting period, also reported seeing child soldiers in the SPLA in Unity state. The UN reported observing child soldiers in military uniform and carrying firearms with the South Sudan Wildlife Service, comprising primarily former SPLA soldiers. The UN verified eight boys affiliated with the South Sudan National Police Force (SSNPS). NGO and UN officials acknowledged sex trafficking and forced labor of children associated with the SPLA may still occur.

During the reporting period, the SPLA integrated into their ranks one militia with significant numbers of child soldiers. David Yau Yau, the militia commander of the South Sudan Democratic Movement/Army’s Cobra Faction (SSDM/A-CF), had approximately 3,000 children under his command when his forces were integrated into the SPLA in May 2014. The SPLA agreed on the full integration of Yau Yau and his soldiers on the condition all child soldiers under his command be demobilized prior to integration; the demobilization was carried out in partnership with an international organization. In February 2015, the SPLA integrated Johnson Olony, a Shilluk militia leader, whose militia included child soldiers. Some of Olony’s officers are in the midst of integration; however, his enlisted troops have not yet started the integration process. The SPLA reportedly insisted all child soldiers under Olony’s command be demobilized prior to a full integration.

Child soldiers were also present in large numbers within the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) and groups affiliated with the opposition; the UN estimated the White Army, a civilian fighting force, recruited most of the remaining 9,000 child soldiers, some of which participated in active fighting. The SPLA-North (SPLM/A-N), a Sudan-based group formerly aligned with the SPLA and reportedly continuing to receive support from the South Sudanese government, conducted periodic campaigns in which it forcibly recruited adults and children in refugee sites in South Sudanese territory, including in Yida, Unity State and Maban, Upper Nile State. The SPLM/A-N reportedly used child soldiers in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in Sudan to fight against the Sudan Armed Forces and aligned militias. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued to harbor enslaved South Sudanese children in neighboring countries and exploited them as cooks, porters, combatants, and for sexual slavery.

The Government of South Sudan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The number of child soldiers recruited and used, at times by force, by the SPLA significantly increased during the reporting period. The government formally recommitted to an action plan to eliminate the recruitment and use of child soldiers by 2016; however, after signing the recommitment and through the end of the reporting period it continued to recruit child soldiers, at times by force. The government did not hold SPLA officers criminally accountable for the unlawful recruitment and use of children. While the government reported investigating five suspected traffickers, such efforts appear negligible in light of the significant trafficking problem within South Sudan. The government did not provide adequate protective services for trafficking victims and continued to indiscriminately arrest and imprison individuals for prostitution, including child sex trafficking victims.


Uphold the commitment to demobilize all child soldiers and provide resources for demobilization programs; punish military officials found to be in violation of laws related to recruitment, use, and exploitation of children; increase efforts to investigate suspected human trafficking cases, prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including complicit government officials, using existing laws; establish and implement procedures to prevent prosecution of trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; launch a public awareness campaign to educate government officials and the general public on all forms of human trafficking; train law enforcement and judicial officials to recognize trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, particularly individuals in prostitution and children in street vending, construction, or domestic service; work with NGOs to develop an inventory of service providers, and train government officials on procedures to refer victims to these organizations to receive care; ensure unimpeded access to all military barracks for monitoring missions to identify and remove any children; enact the draft labor act to ensure adequate prohibitions of forced labor; form an interagency committee to develop and implement a national anti-trafficking policy; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The government made minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but did not investigate or prosecute any government officials complicit in trafficking. South Sudanese law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. South Sudan’s Penal Code Act of 2008 (Article 282) prescribes a sufficiently stringent punishment of up to seven years’ imprisonment for the sale of a person across international borders. The Penal Code Act also prohibits and prescribes punishments of up to seven years’ imprisonment for abduction (Article 278) and transfer of control over a person (Article 279) for the purpose of unlawful compulsory labor; the prescribed punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment for compulsory labor without aggravating circumstances is not sufficiently stringent. Article 276 criminalizes buying or selling a child for the purpose of prostitution and prescribes a punishment of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Punishments prescribed in Article 254 for procuring a child (up to 10 years’ imprisonment) or an adult (up to two years’ imprisonment) for the purposes of prostitution are not commensurate with those for rape. Article 258 prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for parents or guardians who cause or allow their child to be involved in the sex trade. South Sudan’s Child Act of 2008 prohibits the recruitment and use of children for military or paramilitary activities, and prescribes punishments of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for such crimes.

Some government officials, including members of the SPLA, SSNPS, and National Wildlife Service were reportedly complicit in trafficking offenses. The government made no efforts during the reporting period to address government complicity by investigating and prosecuting those who committed such crimes and has never formally issued a punishment for the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Although the SPLA issued orders in June 2014, making division commanders responsible for ensuring their divisions were not recruiting or using child soldiers, there is no evidence this led to decreased impunity in the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The government reported there is now an active directorate for child protection, headed by a brigadier general, responsible for investigating allegations of child soldiering.

The government reported its investigation of five suspects; it did not identify whether the cases pertained to sex or labor trafficking. Capacity of law enforcement officers in most regions of the country remained limited, and courts often lacked adequate human and physical resources to investigate and prosecute crimes, including human trafficking. Pervasive corruption in the judicial sector, including the use of intimidation and bribery, previously hindered prosecutions of traffickers. The government did not provide specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers or judicial officials during the year, and officers continued to have little or no awareness of South Sudan’s laws prohibiting human trafficking. The national legislature did not pass the omnibus labor act, which was drafted by the Ministry of Labor in 2009 to provide further protections against forced labor.


The government did not protect trafficking victims and, at times, law enforcement efforts were harmful to victims. Although the government reportedly identified five victims, including two children, it did not transfer identified victims to receive care from either the government or civil society organizations. Law enforcement continued to indiscriminately arrest individuals in prostitution, including trafficking victims, as there was no process to distinguish or identify potential victims among these or other vulnerable populations. UN agencies and NGOs provided temporary shelter to child soldiers demobilized by the government in partnership with an international organization, but the government did not provide financial or other support to these organizations.

Demobilization of children within the SSDA-CF, in partnership with UNICEF, began in January 2015 with 549 children ranging from 11-17 years of age released by mid-February. The demobilization plans stipulated a monetary incentive in the form of one-time financial assistance of 700 South Sudanese Pounds ($237) to help former child soldiers find work and safety after leaving the SPLA; however, due to the economic crisis in South Sudan the funds were often unavailable, which slowed the pace of demobilization.

The Ministry of Gender, Child, and Social Welfare (MOGSW), with support from international donors, operated a children’s shelter that could be used to shelter trafficking victims; however, the shelter was not equipped to handle trafficking cases, had limited space and resources, and has not provided shelter to any trafficking victims since independence in 2012. There were no specialized services available for male, female, or foreign trafficking victims or for any victims outside Juba. Front-line officers failed to remove potential and identified victims from exploitative situations. Social stigma and justified fears of punitive law enforcement actions discouraged victims, particularly sex trafficking victims, from communicating with law enforcement authorities. There were no laws or policies in place to protect victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. The government did not encourage victims’ assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes or provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution. In previous years, the government arrested foreign victims for lack of proper documentation, and police and SPLA soldiers reportedly raped child sex trafficking victims and female child soldiers, though it is unknown if this continued during the reporting period.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The government drafted a national action plan against trafficking and took initial steps to demobilize child soldiers and put mechanisms in place to prevent their future recruitment. The government signed an action plan to end child soldiering in 2009 and formally recommitted to that action plan in 2012 and again in 2014. In October 2014, the minister of defense, in partnership with the UN, launched the “Children: Not Soldiers” campaign, which details 18 measures the SPLA must undertake to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers and to end grave violations against children in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law by 2016. The government also disseminated radio messages highlighting the child soldiers and submitted legislative amendments to the Ministry of Justice to apply sanctions to the recruitment of children by army commanders. SSNPS trained 440 officers on investigative procedures, including identifying and assisting victims. However, it did not conduct any anti-trafficking information or education campaigns or partner with civil society organizations to promote awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, and trafficking awareness remained low among government officials and the public. Authorities took no known steps during the reporting period to address the labor exploitation of South Sudanese nationals working abroad or foreign nationals within South Sudan. The government had memoranda of understanding with Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda to facilitate information exchanges, including on human trafficking. The government made no new efforts to ensure its policies, regulations, or agreements did not contribute to forced labor. The government made no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. South Sudan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.