1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. East Africa
  4. South Sudan

"All places were dangerous": civilian voices from a South Sudan front line

Leer county Unity State has been one of the regions in South Sudan hardest hit since conflict in South Sudan broke out again in December 2013.
Leer county Unity State has been one of the regions in South Sudan hardest hit since conflict in South Sudan broke out again in December 2013. (Jason Patinkin/IRIN)

Leer county Unity State has been one of the regions in South Sudan hardest hit since conflict in South Sudan broke out again in December 2013.  It is the birthplace of rebel leader Riek Machar, a former vice president, and home of the Dok clan of the Nuer ethnic group.

In early 2014, government troops and their allies, notably Justice Equality Movement rebels from Darfur in Sudan, overran the area. Since May of this year, Leer has been the target of a large government offensive against Machar's insurgents. In that offensive government troops relied on assistance from loyalist Nuer militia, particularly members of the Bul clan from Mayom County and the Jaggey clan from Koch County.

Fighting in Leer has continued after Machar and President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, separately signed a peace deal in August.

All parties to this war have committed extensive abuses against civilians. Recent reports by the UN and Human Rights Watch detailed killings and rapes committed by government forces this year.

Many Leer civilians have fled to small swamp islands known as “tuoch” to escape the violence. Some 20,000 have left the county altogether and arrived in a town called Nyal to the south which has been peaceful, allowing relief workers deliver aid. Below are stories of survivors in Nyal. 

See full photo feature

Share this article
Join the discussion

We uncovered the sex abuse scandal that rocked the WHO, but there’s more to do

We just covered a report that says the World Health Organization failed to prevent and tackle widespread sexual abuse during the Ebola response in Congo.

Our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation triggered this probe, demonstrating the impact our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone. 

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and do more of this. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join