Year on, war leaves S. Sudanese in despair

On December 15 of last year, full-blown armed conflict erupted with loyalists of sacked vice president Machar

Year on, war leaves S. Sudanese in despair

World Bulletin/News Desk

A year after an armed conflict broke out between government troops and rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar, many South Sudanese remain in despair, with no solution in sight despite on-and-off peace talks.

"This war has impacted on me in so many ways," said Jacob Nyang, who used to sell household merchandise, including chairs, tables and cupboards imported from neighboring Kenya.

"I lost my business and now my house has been destroyed," he told The Anadolu Agency.

South Sudan descended into chaos late last year following power struggles within the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

On December 15 of last year, full-blown armed conflict erupted, which President Salva Kiir was quick to describe as an attempted coup by Machar and his loyalists.

Days later, the epicenter of the crisis shifted to the three states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei, where it has persisted since, claiming tens of thousands of lives and displacing nearly two million people.

The conflict has left about four million people at risk of food insecurity, according to humanitarian agencies.

"Even if they say it is a tribal war, I think this is not," insists Nyang. "It is just political leaders bringing these problems on the people."

He recalled the first night of the conflict exactly one year ago.

"That night I was in Khor William [in Juba] near Giada," he told AA. "At 10pm, I heard a lot of gunshots in Giada [army headquarters]."

The family slept in the house that night before fleeing to UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) headquarters in the very early morning.

"I could not raise any money when I was in the camp," said Nyang. "My business has been destroyed and here I am."

He lamented the lack of a peace settlement one year after the outbreak of the conflict.

"I am not happy because so many people lost their lives," said Nyang. "I am not happy because it developed into a massive crisis, which peace talks are failing to resolve."

In recent months, the warring camps have held on-again, off-again peace talks in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional bloc based in Djibouti.

Up until this point, however, the talks have failed to bear any fruit.

Close encounter

For Achol Kiir, 23, the trouble started three days after the war broke out.

"At 2am, there was shooting in Malual Chat army headquarters, a few kilometers outside Bor [provincial capital of Jonglei State]," she told AA.

"We then started running to the riverside in the dark because the gunshots were coming near the town," Kiir recalled.

"We stayed there for seven days. Then on Sunday they [the rebels] followed people to the riverside," she said. "They came running and shooting; people ran to the water."

Kiir said they stayed nearly three hours in the water.

"I was with my little sister who was three years old. I would tell her to hold my clothing and I would hold the grasses," she recalled.

According to Kiir, a local journalist, many people drowned that day.

"I don't know the number, but people – children – drowned that day," she told AA.

Kiir said that, after that ordeal, they came out of the water and, luckily, a boat arrived in the night and ferried them to Lakes State on the opposite side of the river.

After spending several days in Lakes State, she and her family found their way to the Zaipi refugee camp in Adjumani in northwestern Uganda.

"Life was very difficult there," Kiir remembered. "I tried to look for a job there… and failed, so I decided to come back."

"I came to Juba and wanted to go to Bor, but because my family is in Uganda, I stayed here," she said.

Difficult return

Kiir found a job with Free Voice, a Juba radio station, working on a children's program in February before losing her job after her laptop and recording equipment, she says, were stolen.

Months later, she landed a job with The Citizen newspaper.

"I was about to go to school; I got a scholarship to go to Algeria this year," she recalled bitterly.

"But because my father, mother and other children are in the Uganda camp, I turned it down," she told AA.

"My parents and the children need assistance and no one will help them. If I get something little, I send it to them," said Kiir.

Nyang, the displaced trader, is also determined to pick up the pieces of his old life.

Like many displaced people, he left the protection of the UNMISS civilian site earlier this month.

"First, I have to build this house again," he told AA outside his destroyed home. "I need to put the windows and the roof.

"I will then think next year of beginning my business," added a determined Nyang. "I have some little money in the bank which I can use to start afresh."

 

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