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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid