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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs