News / Africa

Thousands Hiding, Hungry in Bush in South Sudan’s Pibor

Women fear for their lives creeping back to Pibor town, but in the bush, people are starving. (Hannah McNeish/ VOA)
Women fear for their lives creeping back to Pibor town, but in the bush, people are starving. (Hannah McNeish/ VOA)
Hannah McNeish
Continued violence has forced more than 100,000 people from a minority tribe into the bush in South Sudan's Pibor County. This follows another round of ethnic violence in Jonglei state. Aid agencies are struggling to mount a humanitarian response to feed 60,000 people who have been surviving on leaves - some for more than six months. But aid access is limited and many people are too scared to come to the towns for fear of abuse by security forces.

Near Pibor town, scores of women have spent days, weeks, and sometimes months, hiding in the bush to wait for food. Yayicho Koko, who has walked from the bush for hours with her baby strapped on her back, explained that living conditions are dire, with people reduced to scavenging and crouching in the shadows like hunted animals.

She said there are no medicines to help the people in the bush.  

Some of these people hiding in the bush fled when thousands of armed men and boys from the rival clan, Lou Nuer, marched from northern Jonglei to attack the Murle living in Pibor County. No Murle casualties have yet been reported. But Lochdan Kengen, who also fled her village when attackers came, said the dead and wounded are scattered in the bush.

She said she believes people were killed - shot at from behind as they were fleeing.

Yayicho Koko, who has been living off leaves in the bush, with her baby. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)Yayicho Koko, who has been living off leaves in the bush, with her baby. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
x
Yayicho Koko, who has been living off leaves in the bush, with her baby. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
Yayicho Koko, who has been living off leaves in the bush, with her baby. (Hannah McNeish for VOA)
Human right abuses

Tens of thousands of Murle had fled the county long before this latest attack due to reported serious human rights abuses by state security forces on civilians. They include rape, torture and murder, and were carried out even on children, women and the elderly in Pibor County during a state-wide disarmament campaign following deadly ethnic fighting between the Lou Nuer and Murle in January 2012.

This ethnic fighting and violence by security forces has prompted many young men to flee to join rebel leader David Yau Yau. The former theologian and Murle official broke away from the government in April 2012 and reportedly is supported by Sudan. Efforts to calm the situation have not yielded results so far, and have even faltered.

Pibor County Commissioner Joshua Konyi said there was no response when he alerted authorities to reports of new fighting involving the Lou Nuer, Yau Yau and government troops. Konyi said the violence is escalating, and many Murle are wounded, but too scared to seek help, due to mistrust of authorities and a spiraling cycle of revenge.

Konyi urges the government to be serious about the committee for peace and to hurry so that proper peace talks with the Yau Yau can be held. He said there also needs to be an investigation into alleged abuses, which he said are increasing.

Bloody feuding

The centuries-old cattle raiding tradition between the Murle and Lou Nuer has taken on a new brutality due to a legacy of decades of civil war with Sudan, making weapons available.   

Jonglei’s Minister for Youth and Sports, Baba Medan Konyi, said he is trying to reach out to these young men to end the retaliatory violence and compete instead in healthy activities. He said the main obstacle, though, is access.  

“We are facing this problem of insecurity in the state. And it won’t give us a chance to move to the counties and talk to the youth so that we can engage them with sport,” he said.

He said he has not lost hope, however, for a new nation born out of so much war.

“As a new nation, yes, we have many challenges. If you go to the U.S. maybe 200 years back, there were many challenges. And I believe one day that South Sudan can change and all this will stop,” said Konyi.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently called South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, urging him to address the ethnic violence in Jonglei, stamp out rights abuses by security forces and to punish the perpetrators.

Whether that call is heeded could decide the fate of civilians in Pibor County and beyond.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid