Pastor Cosmas Lodiong, Jalimo, South SudanThursday, May 25, 2017 Simona Foltyn/IRIN
Pastor Cosmas Lodiong crouches over a dark stain on a concrete walkway in Jalimo, a small town in the forested hills of Kajo Keji county in South Sudan's Equatoria region. "Someone was killed here," he says. "He was a civilian. He was a peasant." Two weeks earlier, in mid-April, government soldiers from a garrison to the south stormed Jalimo after clashing with rebels, the pastor told IRIN. In total, they killed four people in the town, all civilians, before setting fire to dozens of homes. The peasant was named Joseph Duku, according to Lodiong. The other three deceased had been drinking tea down the street when soldiers pulled them from their chairs and shot them in the street. Lodiong was outside the town at the time of the killings, and ventured to Jalimo once the gunshots stopped. Duku's relatives buried his body. Lodiong placed the rest in a mass grave on the edge of town. Like most of South Sudan, Kajo Keji is at war. In towns like Jalimo, bullet holes mark the walls of stores, shell casings litter the roadways, and dozens of homes are burned black. Rebels occupy the town, in view of a government garrison across a green valley. Nearly all the civilians have fled to Uganda, with the few who remain plagued by hunger, disease, and fear of the next battle. Lodiong himself - Jalimo's pastor - no longer lives there, only traveling there with IRIN to show the mass grave. If Jalimo is any indication, South Sudan's war, now in its fourth year, shows no signs of stopping. "I pray that God listens to the pastors so peace comes," says Lodiong.