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

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

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

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora