Friday, 6 November 2009

Disturbing reports from South Sudan

I saw an interesting report today. The video is not available to be embedded, otherwise I would have shown it here. You can see clips from the report here.

Unreported World, Channel 4 News (6 November 2009) Escalating violence in South Sudan has claimed more lives in 2009 than the conflict in Darfur, but has been largely ignored by the western media. Reporter Ramita Navai and director Julie Noon uncover a disturbing new trend of women and children being directly targeted. More than 2000 people have been killed in 2009 in South Sudan, and a quarter of a million people displaced. The unrest is threatening to destroy the 2005 peace deal that ended Africa's longest and bloodiest civil war, which lasted 22 years and saw over two million people killed.
Most of the fighting has been concentrated in the country's most volatile state, Jonglei. Navai and Noon find thousands of people waiting for a UN emergency food drop in the town of Akobo. They have all fled recent attacks and have not had enough to eat for over two months. People tell Navai they have been forced to eat wild grass and leaves. Everyone she speaks to has had loved ones killed as a result of the fighting.
The influx of over 25,000 refugees has put Akobo on the brink of a famine. A convoy of UN barges carrying food aid should have been delivered less than a month ago, but it was attacked and over 700 tonnes of food were lost. After hours of waiting, the hungry crowd is turned away; not all their chiefs have arrived for the distribution, and food cannot be handed out until they do. The team follows a woman called Nybola as she returns to her makeshift shelter. She has lost her husband and three of her six children in two separate attacks. She says she suspects two of her children were abducted - a phenomenon that is on the rise.

The team returns to the airstrip in Akobo and talks to the commissioner. He explains that ethnic clashes and cattle rustling are traditional in the region, but that the sheer number and nature of the killings suggest that there is more at play. He explains that people believe the Khartoum government is arming militias to fuel the fighting. Khartoum denies this.
The team visit Akobo's only hospital, which serves over 50,000 people. All around the grounds are mothers holding severely malnourished children. There are 640 children being treated for malnutrition in the hospital, with 20 new cases arriving every week.
The team journeys north along the Sobat River through an extremely tense area. Suddenly Navai and Noon are forced to duck down on the floor of the boat - they've been shot at and their guide has spotted around 15 armed young men on the riverbank. The team then meets the group responsible for attacking the UN barges, a 500-strong militia called the White Army. Their leader says that he attacked the UN barges as he believed the route is being used by the north to supply weapons to a rival tribe. The north in turn blames clan rivalry and cattle rustling for the violence. The northern government claims that since the war, weapons have always been around, and suggests that the warring in the south is due to a lack of development and infrastructure, and of the rule of law.

In Bor, the state capital, Navai and Noon visit children who have recently been rescued after being abducted during attacks. Twelve-year-old Umot was fishing with his parents when they were ambushed. He says he saw his mother and three friends killed before he was snatched.
While the team is in Bor, more fighting breaks out in a village called Duk Padiet. At the airstrip in
Juba, the capital of South Sudan, the team film helicopters landing, full of injured people. Even though it's a two-hour flight from Duk Padiet, the hospital in Juba is the only one big enough to cope with casualties of this scale. The team discovers that thousands of men had attacked the village, killing more than 160 people. Navai speaks to Major General Kuol Diem Kuol, the spokesperson for the SPLA, South Sudan's national army. He claims the north has a hand in the violence that is happening and predicts more massacres in South Sudan.

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