According to the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report), the Government of the Republic of South Sudan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Therefore, South Sudan remained on Tier 3.

South Sudan is among seventeen countries whose governments do not meet the TVPA’s minimum standards due to varies factors including the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking; the extent to which the country’s government does not meet the TVPA’s minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking; reasonable measures that the government would need to undertake to be in compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons; the extent to which the government is devoting sufficient budgetary resources to investigate and prosecute human trafficking, convict and sentence traffickers; and obtain restitution for victims of human trafficking; and the extent to which the government is devoting sufficient budgetary resources to protect victims and prevent the crime from occurring.

2021 Trafficking in Persons Report
2021 Trafficking in Persons Report

Over the past five years, human traffickers targeted and exploited both domestic and foreign victims in South Sudan, and traffickers exploited victims from South Sudan abroad. The 2021 TIP Report found that women and girls, particularly those from rural areas or who are internally displaced, are vulnerable to domestic servitude throughout South Sudan. Some of these women and girls are sexually abused by male occupants of the household while traffickers force others to engage in commercial sex acts. In states capitals and rural areas, prominent South Sudanese figures sometimes force women and girls into domestic servitude. In restaurants, hotels, and brothels in urban centers South Sudanese and foreign businesspeople exploit South Sudanese girls in sex trafficking, at times with the involvement of corrupt law enforcement officials. The 2021 TIP Report goes to reveal that South Sudanese citizens coerce some children to work in construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, gold mining, begging, and cattle herding- situations that fall under labor trafficking.

In addition to the South Sudan citizen-to-citizen trafficking, South Sudanese and foreign business owners recruit men and women from neighboring countries — especially the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of the Congo, and Uganda — as well as South Sudanese women and children, with fraudulent offers of employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and construction, and they force them to work for little or no pay or coerce them into commercial sex. An international organization reported Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Kenyan business owners recruited and exploited their compatriots, who enter South Sudan with valid visas and travel documents, to exploit them in forced labor or sex trafficking. Traffickers sexually exploit women most frequently in the country’s capital, Juba, and in Nimule, a city located on the border with Uganda.

An international organization estimated government and opposition affiliated forces have recruited more than 19,000 child soldiers since the start of the conflict in 2013, and armed groups continued to recruit and use children during the reporting period. Governmental and non-governmental groups continued to retain, recruit, and use child soldiers during the reporting period, with observers reporting armed groups used 48 percent of children in combat roles. Experts note more children fight on behalf of locally organized armed groups rather than formally organized groups with centralized command and control structures. International observers reported groups recruited and used child soldiers in Central and Western Equatoria, Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Greater Upper Nile. Observers reported armed groups used young boys to guard or raid cattle, a key source of income for many South Sudanese.

South Sudan is still among the countries that are not Party to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

Bandak Lul is a research project manager at Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research. He may be reached at bandaklul@gmail.com

Human Rights Activist & Refugee Advocate — Research Project Manager and Support Faculty, ASU | Board Member, City of Phoenix Mayor’s Human Task Force