South Sudan President Salva Kiir has ordered his Defence Minister and army chief to publicly execute members of the armed forces if they raped women and girls, a media report said on Tuesday.

“If a soldier rapes a woman or a girl, the punishment is to shoot him in the head and in public”, Kiir said in a speech broadcast live on state-owned radio and television stations.

The South Sudanese leader admitted that the move may attract criticism from human rights defenders, but it was meant to restore stability in the East African nation.

“People have ears and eyes to see. If they see or hear that rapists or criminals are being killed, they will stop committing these acts”, Kiir said.

He urged the community of Yei to end violence and support his national dialogue initiative declared late in 2016, which was intended to end the on-going mass displacement and violence in the Greater Equatoria region.

The UN has on several occasions accused the South Sudanese government troops and opposition forces of committing sexual violence and rapes.

The UN Mission in the South Sudan (Unmiss) reported in 2016 that it documented at least 172 cases of sexual violence in Juba since renewed fighting erupted in July 2016.