Murle women flee tribal violence in S Sudan

As many as 100,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes as fighting surges in Jonglei.

Peter Greste |

Gumuruk, South Sudan - Telling stories of a brutal ethnic conflict - massacres of women and children and the total destruction of isolated villages - a handful of Murle tribeswomen have made it across the remote and boggy landscape to this tiny ramshackle town.

They say that hundreds, possibly thousands, of people have been killed in fighting between the Murle and the Lou Nuer tribes - with claims the South Sudanese army is backing the Lou Nuer.

South Sudan region suffers mass displacement

The army, which has a base in the school here in Gumuruk, vehemently denies such claims.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the French medical charity also known as Doctors Without Borders, reports that at least 100,000 people have been forced from their homes in a new surge of fighting between the tribes.

But as the rainy season here drags on, the huge, remote state is largely inaccessible, and it is nearly impossible for reporters or aid workers to get to the battlegrounds and killing fields to find solid evidence outside of the testimonies of those who venture into government-controlled towns in a quest for assistance.

It is thought that many victims of the violence are hiding out in the bush that surrounds this muddy outpost, just a couple of hours walk away - close enough for the women and children to seek help, but far enough away from the South Sudanese army to feel "safe".

With Gumuruk's government-appointed administrator refusing to let civilians search the surrounding area for survivors, the voices of those desperate enough to reach the town are the only ones that, for now at least, can be heard.

For more on this story, read Peter Greste's blog post from Gumuruk: Searching for ghosts in South Sudan.

You can also follow him on Twitter: @petergreste