News / Africa

    S. Sudanese Somber, Proud Despite Conflict

    South Sudanese dance and wave flags during celebrations marking three years of Independence at a stadium in Juba, July 9, 2014.
    South Sudanese dance and wave flags during celebrations marking three years of Independence at a stadium in Juba, July 9, 2014.

    South Sudan is observing its third independence anniversary in a somber mood as the nation also marks nearly 7 months of political division and conflict.  At least 10,000 people have died since December and more than 1.5 million have been displaced. Last month, both the government and rebel leaders committed themselves to form an interim government, it was their third attempt this year. Some people say they still believe in their country, if not their warring politicians.

    The stench of corpses is almost unbearable. The floors are covered with the clothes of the dead. On April 15, rebel fighters killed several hundred civilians in a mosque in Bentiu, the regional capital and oil hub of northern Unity State.
     
    The dead have been buried in mass graves. Bentiu is now back in the hands of the government, but the situation remains tense.  

    ​Bentiu public buildings and aid agency compounds have been looted. In the offices of Red Cross, the floor is peppered with sheets of paper and broken glass crunches under foot. Residents have deserted their homes and moving around is only possible in an armed United Nations convoy.

    A pick-up truck is parked in front of a gas station. A dozen child soldiers sit in the back, wielding machine guns. One of them, a chubby-cheeked boy who does not seem older than 12, is too short for his green uniform. The boys do not want to talk.
     
    Neither do the country's leaders - who in December caused the world's newest country to turn on itself. The former vice president took up arms against the president who accused him of trying to seize power in a coup d'état. Since then, the country's two largest ethnic groups fight with each other: the Dinka who largely rally behind President Salva Kiir and the Nuer behind opposition leader Riek Machar.
     
    Despite ongoing negotiations about an interim government, much of the country remains in the grip of tribal violence, hunger and disease.
     

    People line up for food distribution in Bentiu, South Sudan, May 30, 2014. (Benno Muchler/VOA)People line up for food distribution in Bentiu, South Sudan, May 30, 2014. (Benno Muchler/VOA)
    x
    People line up for food distribution in Bentiu, South Sudan, May 30, 2014. (Benno Muchler/VOA)
    People line up for food distribution in Bentiu, South Sudan, May 30, 2014. (Benno Muchler/VOA)

    People are exhausted, angry but somehow still optimistic that they can still realize the dream of building their nation.
     
    Roda Nyakuon Mathok stands in a hot tent on the UN compound in Bentiu. Tens of thousands of people have sought refuge here since January. Like the people in front of her in the queue, she is waiting for food. A slogan on her black t-shirt says: ' I love S. Sudan'.
     
    She said the only thing she wants now is peace.

    Next to her stands 24-year-old Samuel Matut Pop.  "I'm still proud I'm a South Sudan. I will never go to another country," he said.
     
    In the south, in the city of Nimule on the border with Uganda, the atmosphere is more hopeful. The lush, green region declared itself neutral early in the conflict and has been peaceful so far. It's neither dominated by the Nuer nor the Dinka.
     
    Joseph, who only gives one name and plays cards with friends in the shade of a tree, said his community could be an example.  "We're hospitable. We need this kind of lifestyle to be also adapted in such communities, so that we're able to have South Sudan which is good for everyone," he stated.
     
    Eschewing tribalism seems to be a growing trend among the younger generation.

    More than half of South Sudan's 11 million people are under the age of 24 and many had never been to South Sudan prior to independence.  They have hope and may be the hope for this country. Many are better educated than their parents. In cities, a growing number of young men of the Dinka and Nuer are refusing tribal markings.
     
    When he was 16, William Bol Gatkuoth, a Nuer in Bentiu, told his father that marks are outdated in a unified nation.   "Now currently, all these things have been omitted. This is a modern world," he said. "Many people leave about the tribal issues."

    At sunset in the capital, Juba, Paul Almas, a motorbike taxi driver, waits for customers. He was born and raised in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, which South Sudan fought for decades for its independence.    "You see, now in South Sudan, there is no law. I hope to change this," he stated.
     
    Almas came back in 2011 to help build his country through the rule of law.  He hopes to make enough money to become a lawyer someday. It is one of thousands of hopes waiting to be realized in South Sudan.

     

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Lisa from: Tx
    July 10, 2014 9:45 AM
    God bless the poor and the innocent who are suffering. This is a day to remember the death of our brothers and sisters. Its not a day of happiness but a day of sorrow. May God bless the peace marker, Long live Dr riek machar.

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.