February 17, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Survivors of the violence, which started in South Sudan’s capital, Juba triggering the current crisis shared with Sudan Tribune their experiences, calling for justice and reconciliation among the various communities.
Over 70,000 South Sudanese have been forced to flee the country in to neighbouring Uganda and other 700,000 displaced within the country as fighting spread to other areas since it began on December 15 last year.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) have documented widespread killings of Nuer civilians, mainly men by members of the South Sudan army (SPLA) in Juba, particularly during the first four days of the fighting with eyewitnesses and victims claiming soldiers and policemen conducted house-to-house searches for Nuer men in Juba.
The worst incident the human rights group discovered was a massacre of between 200 and 300 men in Gudele, a Juba surburd after they were reportedly rounded up and forced into an overcrowded room in a government building before being shot.
In the Ugandan capital, Kampala, Sudan Tribune spoke to a 30-year old survivor of the conflict, who asked not to be named for safety reasons.
He said he and seven of his relatives were allegedly taken by the SPLA to Gudele police station, where more than 300 Nuer men were reportedly being detained.
“When they started shooting, those people dying fell on me. These are the ones who protected me not to be killed because they were already dead and they fell on me”, he said.
“That is why I survived on that, after they finish shooting they open the door”, he added.
The 30-year survivor also showed Sudan Tribune evidence that he was thrice shot on the hand and his right leg.
Despite his ordeal, however, David said that forgiveness was essential in order to prevent South Sudan from spiraling into a cycle of revenge along tribal lines.
Human Rights Watch have also documented the targeting and killing of civilians of Dinka ethnicity by opposition forces in other parts of the country during the conflict.
“If we still revenge and revenge, it will take the country to nowhere. But those who are responsible for these crimes must face justice because they could not [cause] loss lives of people and just simply came to normal life”, stressed the victim.
Simon Kai, another South Sudanese man displaced from Juba said he had lost eight of his cousins on the day the Gudele incident occurred.
He said that the unfortunate incident was caused by soldiers reacting to the political situation and siding either with President Salva Kiir’s government or his opponents within the ruling party (SPLM) led by his ex-deputy Riek Machar, a Nuer.
However, Kai, wondered why Nuer civilians had been targeted in Juba despite not being involved in the political dispute.
There must be acceptance from government, Kai said, rather than denying that civilians were targeted in the capital.
“This would be an important step towards peace”, he said, adding “There will be no genuinely reconciliations without truth”.
South Sudan’s foreign affairs minister Barnabas Marial Benjamin has admitted 100 soldiers have been detained for taking part in the alleged ethnically-targeted killings in Juba during the first days of the conflict.
“There is political reaction on particular soldiers through that such kind of killing, this is something is very hard to understand but what is very important is that there must be true reconciliation taking place, the perpetrators must be arrested genuinely must be brought to justice and the government must acknowledged they failed to control the whole situation”, he added.
The conflict began following weeks of tension within the ruling party, with opponents to President Kiir, led Machar, becoming increasingly critical of his leadership.
Kiir’s opponents deny attempting to oust him in a coup and claim he used the infighting between the army to silence his critics within the ruling party.