Meet Nyaruach, South Sudanese singer who survived rape by armed police boss

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Nyaruach

Nyaruach, a South Sudanese singer, has recounted how he was raped countless times by a police commander before fleeing South Sudan for Kakuma Refugee camp in northern Kenya.

Nyaruach was just 10-years-old when she was first raped by a police commander. Powerless against the armed man who carried out the horrific attack, she knew she would be killed if she resisted.

The young orphan, who was just four when her mother was killed, was one of thousands of women and girls who endured sexual violence during Sudan’s brutal civil war.

Now living in a refugee camp in Kenya, singer Nyaruach wants the world to learn from the horrors she endured.

She has channelled her devastating experiences into music – and this summer is set to perform at some of Britain’s best-known festivals and venues.

Nyaruach, 35, bravely recalls how she saw family members killed and homes burned in Sudan, where war broke in 1983 – the year she was born.

She lost count of the number of times she was raped and in one of her darkest moments attempted to take her own life by drinking poison.

Now she wants to be a voice for women and children who suffer in conflict and believes music can be a powerful tool to get her message across.

Nyaruach told Mirror Online: “I was first raped during the war. I went to him for help, but he took advantage.

“When they have the power, you can’t stop them from doing what they want to do, they will take advantage of you.

“You can just accept what they do, and this is what happens in South Sudan.

“If you don’t let them do it, you will die. Women have no rights.”

Tragically similar atrocities continue to this day.

In February the United Nations said its investigators had uncovered evidence of 50 children – one as young as eight – being raped by government-supporting forces in the newly-created South Sudan, along with 84 women in the last three months of 2018.

“A man can rape you and then they cast you away,” Nyaruach said.

“A lot of girls are raped, they don’t have hope in South Sudan.”

In most cases these crimes go unpunished.

“I’m fighting for women and children, I want them to be free,” said Nyaruach.

“Someone can come and destroy your life – and this is accepted in South Sudan.”

Nyaruach, who has two children, now lives in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, which is run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Kenyan government.

Situated in one of the country’s poorest regions, many of the estimated 60,000 inhabitants are faced with malnutrition and violence each day.

“We’re suffering, people aren’t getting an education and there is never enough money,” Nyaruach said.

Nevertheless Nyaruach works with local organisations supporting young women, and encouraging them to fight for girl power.

“Music is the biggest thing that can give you hope,” she said.

“Maybe someone can sing about peace and our culture, these songs can help people to move forward.”

In 2008, after years of separation, she was reunited with her brother, Emmanuel Jal, who fled his village during an attack that claimed their mother’s life.

In a 2009 autobiography and documentary named War Child, he recounted being recruited as a child soldier.

In February he told Mirror Online: “We went through hell. Imagine being seven years old and going into a battlefield.

“I saw heads being blown off, people dying everywhere, we were like zombies.”

Thanks to a British aid worker named Emma McCune, Emmanuel was smuggled to Nairobi in Kenya, from where he was granted asylum in Britain.

The siblings, who share a love of music, last year released an album together named Naath and plan to perform in Europe over the summer.

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Chocha Writer is our roving and much read resident writer. He will write on several topics. Contact him on chochakenya@gmail.com or 0772 808 931