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 Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More