Tag Archives: Bor

In S. Sudan, churches struggle to keep role as trusted peacemakers

Wearing an immaculate white cassock, Catholic Bishop Paride Taban strides through the mud and tents of the Jebel displaced persons camp in South Sudan’s capital Juba on a recent Sunday.

The camp is hardly sacred ground: thousands of ethnic Nuer live here under United Nations peacekeeper protection in fear of Dinka soldiers outside. But Bishop Taban is here to conduct mass anyway.

“The church is to be with the suffering people, wherever in the world,” the 78-year-old bishop says. Read more…

Photo: Catholic Archbishop Bishop Paride Taban leads mass on November 9 in an airplane hangar at the UN’s Jebel displaced person’s camp outside Juba where thousands of ethnic Nuer have taken shelter from the war. By Jason Patinkin

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Why a pro-government militia attacked UN compound in South Sudan

South Sudanese women displaced by the fighting wait in line for personal hygiene kits in a camp for the displaced, inside the United Nations compound in Bor, March 15, 2014. Andreea Campeanu/Reuters/File

Nairobi, Kenya — Scores of civilians were killed Thursday and more than 100 were injured when an armed youth militia attacked a United Nations base in the South Sudan town of Bor, where some 5,000 civilians were sheltering from the civil war.

The attackers, claiming to be peaceful demonstrators, ignored peacekeepers’ warning shots and breached security fences to spray bullets at civilians inside before the “blue helmets,” as UN forces are often known, forced them out.

It was the deadliest incident at a UN base in the four-month conflict, which began in December when the Army split along ethnic lines in a political struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his rival Riek Machar, a Nuer. Thousands of people have been killed, and over a million have fled their homes, including 75,000 taking refuge in UN bases across the country.

Thursday’s killings mark a low point in South Sudan for the UN, which has faced continual accusations from the government of siding with the rebels. The Bor incident is also the first attack by a pro-government civilian militia, perhaps marking a new and dangerous phase of the fighting.  Read more…

Hunger and disease wreak havoc in war-devastated South Sudan

Government soldiers in South Sudan. File photo. CHARLES LOMODONG / AFP

Juba, South Sudan — A long queue forms every morning in frontof a clinic in Tomping refugee camp  of South Sudanese capital Juba, where thousands have sought shelter for fear of being killed for their ethnicity.

Mothers bring children wrapped in blankets whom nurses place on scales to weigh for malnutrition. But one afternoon, the small bundle in the arms of one mother was silent and no longer moved.

“It’s a shame,” said Matthieu Ebel, coordinator of the clinic run by the aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), after he arranged for the tiny body to be collected for burial.

“People think of the fighting. But these are the consequences, too.” Disease and hunger are taking a toll across South Sudan, four months into the conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 900,000 displaced in the power struggle.

An unknown number of civilians have perished from disease and malnutrition as armed groups have ransacked medical facilities and displaced people have missed the planting season.  Read more…

Young men and guns: Why South Sudan’s war flamed so fast and brightly

Rebels sit in the now-emptied hospital in Malakal, South Sudan, in February. Photo by Ilya Gridneff/AP

Juba, South Sudan — Gabriel Mabior left South Sudan’s army for the same reason he joined it: he wanted an education.

Mr. Mabior signed up to be a child soldier in 1987 after being assured that a pledge to fight would give him a seat in school.

But like thousands of other boys, he was quickly yanked out of school and ended up fighting for years for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army against the government of Sudan.

Mabior, now a soft-spoken and thoughtful businessman with a proclivity for button-down shirts, feels proud of his contribution to the liberation struggle that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011. Freedom allowed him to earn a university degree, he says, which is why he chose to fight in the first place – and achieving a degree was unlikely under the old Sudan regime in Khartoum.

But Mabior, who lives in the capitol Juba, is now frustrated that South Sudanese are fighting again instead of pursuing what he describes as the fruits of liberation and peace, like study and individual growth.

“What are you fighting for?” the former child soldier asks. “This is the time for young people to live. This is the time for peace. This is the time for education.”  Read more…

Forgotten among the forgotten: Foreign refugees in South Sudan’s civil strife

At this camp in Juba, more than 10,000 people are sheltering, including hundreds of Eritreans who are afraid to go back to their country. Photo by Jason Patinkin

Juba, South Sudan — Two years ago when Peter moved here from nearby Eritrea, things looked pretty good: South Sudan was a new country getting international help. The city of Bor, where Peter opened a general store, was along a major corridor of emerging oil wealth and prosperity.

South Sudan was in fact a refuge, politically and religiously freer and less repressive than Eritrea. Peter, who will not give his real name for fear of reprisal, could escape what has become Eritrea’s notorious forced conscription policy, where the government is grabbing men up to the age of 50 for indefinite Army service. Plus, getting across the South Sudan border was not too difficult.

But now he finds himself caught in South Sudan’s brutal civil strife. A slight man with a short, shaggy Afro, he is living in a refugee camp of 10,000 people in the capitol of Juba. And at this point he just wants to leave this place and find some safer haven.  Read more…

Even in garrison town, no sanctuary for South Sudan’s civilians

Displaced people who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile bathe and gather water from the Nile in the town of Awerial, South Sudan, Jan. 1, 2014.  Ben Curtis/AP/File

Bor, South Sudan —  Adhieu Makuach waits with her three children atop a pile of suitcases and mattresses on the banks of the White Nile that traverses this strategic town.

Bor has been the epicenter of bitter fighting between the Army and rebels in a civil conflict that appears increasingly intractable. The Army finally won, but not before Bor was flattened.

Ms. Makuach is hoping to board a boat to a refugee camp. For days, loudspeaker messages from a government truck driving up and down the bank have urged people like her to stay. But Makuach wants out, in case the bullets start flying again.

“We’re afraid of the rebels,” she says. “We don’t know if [they] will come or go.”

That civilians such as Makuach are still fleeing for their lives 10 weeks into South Sudan’s brutal conflict, even now that Bor has become a heavily armed garrison for the Army, shows that military gains are fragile and not trusted by ordinary people, analysts say. A few returnees are trying to rebuild. But many coming out of the bush and seeing the destruction of their homes, leave directly for camps.  Read more…

Quick peace eludes S. Sudan leaders, despite Army victories

Women and children stand next to their tented shelters in the grounds of a church where thousands have sought refuge during the recent fighting in Malakal, Upper Nile State, in South Sudan Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/AP

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Nairobi, Kenya

The month-old civil conflict in South Sudan has claimed some 10,000 lives, with major towns razed to the ground and half a million people displaced. Amid the fighting, negotiators have been holding peace talks in neighboring Ethiopia.

In recent days government forces, supported by Ugandan troops, apparently wrested two key towns, Bor and Malakal (both important to the oil industry) from the control of rebels. Yet despite initial hopes, there are signs that a quick peace may be further away, not closer, in the world’s newest nation. One reason is a lack of command and control over an ill-disciplined military that may be reverting to its roots as a militia.  Read more…