News / Africa

Bor Residents Rush to Bury Dead Amid South Sudan Fighting

FILE - Dead bodies covered in plastic lie in front of a burnt out marketplace in Bor, South Sudan.
FILE - Dead bodies covered in plastic lie in front of a burnt out marketplace in Bor, South Sudan.
TEXT SIZE - +
Hannah McNeish
— Fighting between rebels and the government is still raging in South Sudan, where a political crisis in late December lit the fuse to an explosion of violence that first split the army, and now has turned whole communities against one another.  In some towns - which have changed hands several times - the few remaining residents are trying to bury the many dead littering the streets.  

The only sound in the streets of Bor, the capital of South Sudan's long-troubled Jonglei state, is silence.

The odd scavenging child picks through the rubble of what was once the market. But even the smallest bag of flour has been taken, and the vultures sometimes caw as they circle overhead.

On the other side of town, the silence is punctured by diggers, churning up the earth for mass burial sites.

Michael Mayen, a lawyer who returned and was horrified at the mutilated, burnt or fast decomposing bodies strewn across the town, has spent more than two weeks collecting what he says were some 2,000 bodies.

"I decided to come to know exactly the people who were killed," he said. "Was it innocent people or soldiers?  When I came here I saw most of the vulnerable people were killed.  Ladies, kids and disabled people was killed."
 
The fighting began in December when a power struggle between South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar triggered a gunbattle between presidential guards in the capital, Juba. It quickly stirred to life old militias, as well as general ethnic tensions stemming from a decades-long civil war which eventually won South Sudan its independence.

This new war is internal, drawn often along ethnic lines and sparing few civilians.

Reverend Thomas Kur returned to the St. Andrews Episcopal Church in the center of Bor and found six female priests shot dead, the younger women raped and butchered.  He is struggling to come to terms with the senseless violence.

Like Mayen, Kur would like to honor the dead - many of whom he says are still lying in the small huts that dot the town and outlying villages.  

"There's no funerals!  Who's there? The whole town is deserted, who can make the funerals?  I've been used to being in the place of the burials like this morning, where that mass grave of 134 are buried, and one is still being dug, so that to put the other people who are still being collected in the towns," Kur said.
 
Some people, like Mary Aru, have crept back from the bush to try to salvage what remains of their ransacked or razed homes.  She has only come away with one suitcase.

She says, "The whole house was destroyed. They stole the beds, everything. The only thing we found were a few pieces of cloth."
 
Organizations like Human Rights Watch are urging teams from the United Nations and African Union to gather evidence of the dead now to ensure that the mass abuses and killings on both sides are not simply buried and forgotten.

Mayen says that it pains him to see bodies being burnt along with the rubbish. He is trying to photograph and document as many of the bodies as he can -- but some have been lying under the sweltering sun for up to two months and have been picked at by dogs or birds.

Local officials say they are carrying out house-to-house searches but a lack of vehicles and manpower mean they have only gone a few kilometers outside Bor - of which only half has been checked.

With rebels still operating in about half of Jonglei's counties, and heavy fighting reported in other states, collecting the dead is a process that will likely haunt many towns in the weeks to come.

You May Like

'Exceptionally Lucky' US Boy Survives Flight in Wheel Well

The boy was unconscious for most of the flight, and appeared to be unharmed after enduring the extremely cold temperatures and lack of oxygen More

US Anti-Corruption Law Snags Major Tech Company

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in December, 1977 More

Cameron Criticized for Calling UK 'Christian Country'

Letter from scientists, academics and writers says the prime minister is fostering division by repeatedly referring to England as a 'Christian country' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid