The Cost of War
Today marks one month since my evacuation from South Sudan. It is hard to believe that the conflict continues to rage in South Sudan. I was a bit naïve when we departed Juba in December. I was thinking that I would go on my two week Christmas holiday, the fighting would subside and we would be back in Juba by mid-January. Little did I know that the fighting that started in Juba would sweep the country and reopen old ethnic wounds that have plagued the region for years.
Living in South Sudan, I always knew that the smallest spark could ignite a civil war. But it breaks my heart that a political dispute within the ruling party has cost the lives of thousands of innocent victims. Last week, an overcrowded boat with people fleeing the violence in Malakal, a city in the northern part of South Sudan sank killing more than 200 people. The exact number of people on the boat is unknown but what we do know is that these innocent victims died fleeing the fighting between the pro-government and anti-government forces. International organizations put the death toll from this conflict over 10,000 with more than 500,000 displaced in various refugee camps.
We had a staff member that was forced to flee the fighting, hiding for days in the forest until it was safe to enter the UN camp. We had another staff member robbed and another shot. Many South Sudanese have escaped to neighboring countries. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 32,000 South Sudanese citizens have sought refuge in neighboring countries, the bulk, around 24,000 in Uganda, entering at a rate of 3,000 a day.
I do not know when this conflict will end. Both sides do not seem interested in bringing the fighting to a quick end. There was an announcement today of a possible cease fire agreement but the hard work will be finding peace. Innocent citizens have borne the brunt of this conflict. I continue to lose hope that South Sudan will put away its weapons and instead choice the voting box to make changes in the country.