These days, he and others from the Nuer tribe fear leaving the camp, incase they are killed, he says. Life is not good here,” M. says. But we have no choice.”
Father of eight children, M. sits on a plastic chair in the four-by-five-meter tented room, part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Tomping camp in Juba.
He is among an estimated 1.2 million internally displaced people who have fled their homes since the conflict started in December, fighting which stemmed from a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. M.’s face is taught with animosity when he talks about the current government.
IDP tents are dismantled on March 17, at the UNMISS Tomping base for relocation to UN House. Early rains in South Sudan have made it necessary to move the IDPs to a camp with better shelter on higher ground.
He accuses the government security apparatus of targeting him and others from his tribe and killing people according to their ethnicity. He argues the internal political struggle is now a tribal war, a tribal cleansing”.
The government has repeatedly denied such allegations, arguing that the fighting stems from a foiled coup attempt. Analysts and eye witnesses argue about the extent to which the fighting is political and how much it reflects divisions between South Sudan’s two largest groups, the Dinkas and the Nuer.
Over 10,000 people have been killed and more than a million have been displaced since the conflict started, according to rough estimates, although facts are almost impossible to pin down.
Following the fear and bloodshed, M. wants President Kiir to either steps down or to accept a transitional government with equal security sharing where some of our people [Nuers] share the security operations”.
South Sudan is on tenterhooks as fighting continues. President Salva Kiir and rebel commander Riek Machar earlier this month signed a ceasefire deal in Addis Ababa, although fighting restarted within days of signing the deal.
The latest crisis is the deepest challenge facing the fledgling state and a humanitarian disaster. The United Nations Office Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says its South Sudanese camps contain over 80,000 IDPs mainly Nuers in their compounds in the country.
We want peace. And we don’t want more killing… Many of our children have died.”
Shortages of food and water are widespread. Briefing the Security Council, the UN chief Ban Ki Moon said earlier this week that by the end of this year, half of South Sudan’s 12 million people will be either in flight, facing starvation, or dead.
According to UNICEF, at least half of these are children — the most innocent victims in what is increasingly becoming a children’s emergency. Children and women make up most of those fleeing to neighbouring countries.
M. also faces an inadequate food supply, though he says the UN is working hard to improve water provision. Amid the ongoing insecurity, M. has sent his eight children out of the country for refuge.
A 47 year old widow sits in her bed, inside one of the many tents at Tomping camp. The mother of five spent around 15 years in Khartoum before returning to South Sudan and cannot face any more bloodshed.
We want peace. And we don’t want more killing… Many of our children have died now,” she says.