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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers 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.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid