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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora