South Sudan

Refugees seek shelter in graveyard

A graveyard in Juba has become a refuge for some of the four million people displaced by five years of conflict in South Sudan.

“I’ve been a neighbour of the dead for five years now,” says Raymond Modi, one of about 8,000 people who have taken up residence in St Mary’s church cemetery in the suburb of Kony-Konyo.

Many live in flimsy tents and most are from the Terekeka province, where violence erupted two years after South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011.

The situation in the graveyard is desperate – people survive by begging and by eating food rejected by others. There’s a lack of medicine, clothing and shoes.

But the cemetery is still safer than the villages from which they fled, where ethnic and political rivalries have led to the kidnapping of children and the theft of cattle, a vital source of livelihood. Having run for their lives they have no income that would enable them to afford to rent accommodation.

People visiting their dead relatives are understanding about the plight of the graveyard’s living residents. And the displaced people  – well, they seem to have grown accustomed to their situation.

“It’s become a part of my life,” says Modi. “I eat with the dead by throwing some of my food and drink on the ground. I believe it pleases them.”

//Daniel Majak, Juba

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

Tea against hate speech

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I attended ‘Take Tea Together’ (TTT), an initiative organised by Salaam Junub (‘Peace South Sudan’) to counteract hate speech and negative tribalism.

Struggling against these tendencies is really needed in South Sudan, where warring parties in the civil war have deliberately played on and exacerbated tribal differences. Members of the Nuer group in President Salva Kiir’s administration have been labelled ‘Nuer wew’ – betrayers and sycophants. In Juba, the country’s majority tribe, the Dinka, is referred to as ‘MTN’ – a play on the slogan of the giant South African company Mobile Telephone Network: “Everywhere you go”. The Dinkas are traditionally nomads but today  are also scattered around the country partly because of the persistent  conflict.

Such epithets may sound harmless, but in South Sudan’s tense political atmosphere they fan the flames of conflict by inciting difference, dislike, animosity and hatred. Tribal affiliation has become key to getting a job: Dinka, Nuer or Equaotoria people can’t work in a state outside their state of origin.

The recently signed peace agreement  gives some hope. Political reconciliation is the goal. The question is whether ethnic harmony will follow.

/Daniel Majack, Juba

This is the first in a series of postcards from journalists in our network, published on the Blankspot Project website.

The forgotten disaster

Article published in Göteborgsposten
21 April 2018
By Daniel Majack
Photos: Chol Mayak

South Sudan. The conflict in South Sudan – the youngest country in the world – is in its fifth year, and the humanitarian crisis has both intensified and expanded to unbelievable proportions.
In one of the world’s worst – and simultaneously least known – humanitarian disasters, two million people have fled abroad. They have fled mainly to the neighbouring countries Uganda (one million), Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. The same amount of people have been forced to leave their homes but are refugees within the country’s borders.

The refugees are predominantly women and children, according to the UN. The men have been swallowed up by the conflict between government forces and the armed opposition. Some have been killed; others are actively at war. Women and children have been left to flee the violence.

Full article (in Swedish) here: