Rights commission urges international community to take immediate action in South Sudan to avoid “all-out ethnic war”.
South Sudan – Seven-year-old Nyajima still thinks about when the soldiers came to her village. The fighting had been getting closer each day.
“Many people who lived in our village were killed,” she says. “The soldiers stole all the food and left us with nothing except our saucepans, so we took them and started to walk to the POC.” This was the Protection of Civilian Camp run by the UN peacekeeping force UNMISS. “It was a long walk and one night we slept outside on the way. This dress I am wearing is the only dress that I have.”
Nyajima is just one of thousands of children to have been displaced by the on-going war in South Sudan: a recent report from UNICEF estimated the number at 900,000 since the conflict between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those who support the once vice-president, Riek Machar began in 2013.
She is one of the lucky ones – her family all survived and now live in a UN protected camp in Bentiu. “Once we lived in a house made of bamboo – now we live in a house of plastic sheeting,” she says.
Children are the biggest victims of the conflict: 17, 000 of them are reported to have been recruited by armed forces and armed groups looking for child soldiers to fuel the conflict which has been going on since 2013; another 14,000 are registered as unaccompanied or missing; and more than 2,000 have been killed or maimed during this time.
“Before this conflict my life was very good,” says Bol, an 11-year-old boy.
“Then government forces came to my village on an island in Leer County where I lived. They chased us into the water up to our chins and my younger brother was killed. I got separated from my parents and they still don’t know where I am.”
Bol himself only escaped thanks to the intervention of an older soldier. “They shot my brother. I was crying then one of them put a gun to my head but the older man asked them what they were doing killing small boys, so they let me go and stole my cows instead.”