News / Africa

Relentless Use of Landmines in South Sudan Sparks Fear

Hannah McNeish

In South Sudan’s oil-rich Unity state, aid agencies blame suspected rebel militias for planting new landmines in their fight against the five-month old government. The state capital Bentiu is being called “a prison” by experts because all routes leading in and out of the city are thought to be mined.

A de-mining expert calls out that he is ready for the huge machine to rumble slowly forwards, shouting out when the computer screen he is watching intently shows up pieces of metal that could be a mine.

These machines, used by the United Nations Mine Action Coordination Centre [UNMACC], cost $10,000 an hour to run and clear up to seven kilometers of road a day.

Deadly issue

Speaking at a noisy airfield where U.N. helicopters deliver aid to the many places now not reachable by road, U.N. Mine Operations Officer Chris Fielding said the recent re-mining in Bentiu is a huge problem.

“It’s had a major impact on the people of Unity state. It’s stopped the trading. It’s stopped normal business. It’s impeded humanitarian aid efforts. It has caused general suspicion and chaos in many parts of Unity," said Fielding. "We’re experiencing re-mining of the re-mining.  We’re clearing routes and having to re-clear them, time and time again - chasing our tails [wasting our time] on some of the routes.”

There are thousands of unexploded ordnances and mines littering the country from the decades of war, which eventually led to South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in July.

Mining agencies expect it to take another six years to declare the country mine-free. But in places like Unity and other northern states where new mines are being discovered, it could push the country back even further.

Fielding said that local people often start using the roads the moment his team leaves. But it is a false sense of security, as mines often are being re-laid within hours. Last month, 20 people died when a passenger bus hit an anti-tank mine on the road to Mayom County. Locals say the bus had used the same route several times that day.

Treating victims

At Bentiu Hospital, theater attendant Elizabeth Tindil said that landmine incidents have increased since South Sudan gained its independence. She said the community does not dare to travel either by foot or by road, and people are plagued by sadness and fear at having loved ones maimed or killed in the explosions.

“We are not happy. We are sad all the time when we saw our people are broken. The young men, and the small children, and the women.  We become sorry for them because they are our family,” she said.

One of Tindil's “broken people” is six-year-old Gatwech Riak Kornyut, whose car-print pajamas are rolled up to the knee stump where his left leg was blown off. The cheery little boy, sitting on a hospital bed, survived a mine blast in September that killed three women, including his grandmother. His family said they no longer use the Mayom road where the blast occurred.

Major General Mangar Buong, acting head of the 4th division of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army [SPLA] that fought the north for South Sudan’s independence, accuses Khartoum of funding the rebel groups to destabilize the country by planting these mines.

"I don’t know exactly the objective of these people who are fighting. That time, we are fighting a general war with the north. Then we achieve what we want - that is why we raised our flag. And we made also the procedures, the democratic procedures,” said Buong.

Shortly after the interview, the SPLA found a second anti-tank mine in as many days on the same road leading out of Bentiu. They found it only because it had been poorly buried in haste.


You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid