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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid