South Sudan became it's own nation in July 2011. Since then there has been inter-communal violence, border conflicts, and fighting between the rebel militia and government. After fighting between the rebel militia and government in December 2013 a civil war started, killing thousands and displacing over a million people. There has been fighting between ethnic groups, violence by the local tribes, and the South Sudanese army officials. The conflict has also led to famine.
United to End Genocide
At the end of 2013 the ethnic fighting that started in South Sudan was between the Dinka tribe and the Nuer group. The Dinka were mainly supporters of President Salva Kiir while the Nuer were loyal to Riek Machar. After people were killed their bodies were buried in holes, thrown into the Nile, and some were burned. Jickson, who was a student, said if they know you're a Nuer it was a straight bullet to the head. People also had their hands tied behind them and were slaughtered. Mass graves were found in the cities of Juba and Bentiu.
The conflicts in South Sudan continued into 2014. Besides the killings homes, clinics, hospitals, and schools were looted and destroyed. Government forces targeted the Nuer group with house-to-house searches, mass arrests, and unlawful detention. Those held captive had poor living conditions and were subject to torture. The conflicts spread to different areas quickly and some villages and towns were burned, which led to 4,700 tons of food from the World Food Programme food being pillaged. Both government forces and opposition groups used children soldiers. During the conflicts freedom of expression was limited. Journalists were harassed and detained. One newspaper was shut down and a radio station was taken off air. Print runs by newspapers were stopped several times and journalists were also stopped from interviewing opposition figures.
Throughout 2015 the violence in South Sudan continued. Thousands of people that were in refugee camps had little access to food, clean water, and medical care. They were too cramped and didn't have the basic healthcare facilities needed. In August that year both sides that were allied with Kiir and Machara agreed to a ceasefire, but neither side adhered to the agreement. There had been previous ceasefires that were also broken and both Kiir and Machar accused the other of breaking them.
In July 2016 the fighting in South Sudan escalated in the capital Juba and spread to surrounding cities. It was the eve of the fifth anniversary of independence for South Sudan. Tensions were rising a few weeks prior due to SPLA forces and Dinka militia attacking the town of Wau. As a result of the violence in and around Juba about 36,000 people became displaced. A ceasefire was declared which helped calm things down a little but indefinitely.
In an attack in July 2016 dozen of men looted a hotel compound, then killed a journalist and assaulted and raped aid workers afterwards. They threatened the women and separated them into different rooms. One woman was gang raped by 15 men. A soldier repeatedly hit another woman with an AK-47, and then another soldier pointed a gun to her head. The attack at the hotel lasted for 5 hours and some victims were stuck there all night. Throughout the attacks in South Sudan sexual violence has persisted without any consequences from the government.
By the end of 2016 the atrocities in South Sudan were occurring on a large scale. There was an increase in ethnic target killings, abductions, rape, looting, and burning of homes. A third of the teachers in South Sudan had left the country and about a fourth of the general population had fled trying to escape persecution. Yasmin Sooka, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, warned that the escalated violence was becoming like the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
By March 2017 3 million people had been forced from their homes, many of them being displaced. John Janoub lost his home to a fire and has been displaced. Government troops took his 7 family members and put them inside their house then set fire to it, killing his mother, father, sister, brothers, and sister in law. After that he ran and they followed him and shot him in the leg. Janoub was able to escape by walking with his friends for three weeks until they found a camp for displaced person. A UN report found many of the atrocities in South Sudan have been committed by soldiers; targeted killing, unlawful arrest and detention, sexual violence, sexual slavery, and forced marriage. The conflicts have also led to a famine, putting 100 thousand people at risk for starving to death. Food aid has come in but in some areas the government prevented delivery to civilians.
YouTube - PBS News Hour
In March 2017 a report by the United Nations found that even in the midst of famine, the South Sudan government was spending money buying weapons. Most of South Sudan's budget revenue comes from oil sales and at least half, but most likely more, of the country's budget has gone to arms sales. The evidence in the report also proposed that the famine has been a result of the ongoing conflict and military operations. The South Sudanese government denied the claims on the report. Michael Makuei Lueth, a spokesman for the government, said they hadn't bought arms in 2 to 3 years and that they had a right to buy arms for self-protection or self-defense.
In October 2017 an AP investigation found that the United Nations and United States have not done enough to prevent the ethnic cleansing in South Sudan and may be in violation of US law. The Yei area of South Sudan has been full of human rights abuses with mass killings and burning villages. The UN was supposed to send peacekeepers to Yei but failed to do so, and the US has been supporting South Sudan's military. Internal and confidential documents from the UN, White House, and US Department of State as well as interviews from officials and civilians were used for the investigation. One woman said in the midst of the violence UN vehicles drove by without stopping to help anyone.
In November 2017 there was an attack in the Jonglei region. It was part of revenge attacks and cattle raiding between the Murle and Dinka For tribes. At least 43 people were killed and 60 women and children were abducted. Out of those killed were 6 humanitarian workers from local aid organizations. The government of Born state, which is close by, said they would try to find the perpetrators so they could bring them to justice.
In December 2017 the South Sudan government and rebel forces signed a ceasefire once again. The agreement is to end the fighting and allow humanitarian groups access to civilians caught in the violence. The ceasefire is aiming to restore a peace deal from 2015 that faltered after the attacks in Juba intensified. Although the ceasefire has been announced civilians are still living in the midst of instability. Helen Gune who lost her husband and brother to the fighting says she's no longer hopeful that peace will come.