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.
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

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail 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.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More