Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Victims Tell of Brutal Civil War Diving Word's Newest Nation; in His Second Report from South Sudan, Martin Bentham Hears from the Refugees Who Have Lost Everything as Their Leaders Battle over Who Will Hold Power

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Victims Tell of Brutal Civil War Diving Word's Newest Nation; in His Second Report from South Sudan, Martin Bentham Hears from the Refugees Who Have Lost Everything as Their Leaders Battle over Who Will Hold Power

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham

CHARRED debris from rocket-hit homes and testimony from victims who lost loved ones gave a disturbing insight today into the devastation wrought by the civil war in South Sudan.

The houses were destroyed by rebels seeking to topple Salva Kiir, President of the world's newest nation, during attacks on the town of Renk, in Upper Nile state. Renewed fighting has hit the area in the past week, with the boom of weapons heard close to the town.

Civilians described losing parents and other relatives in the cold-blooded killings that have typified a brutal conflict now approaching its 17th month.

It follows the collapse of peace talks this month between Mr Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. They have been leading rival forces since 2013, when a dispute between them erupted into armed clashes. Fighting began in the capital Juba after an alleged coup attempt by Mr Machar, then spread.

It has claimed at least 10,000 lives and up to two million people have fled their homes. Human rights campaigners have documented abuses "on a massive scale" including the targeting of civilians on ethnic grounds, killings in hospitals, mass executions, and recruitment of child soldiers. Upper Nile is one of the worst affected states. Security guard Laverick Maraba, 54, a father of five, lost his home in Renk and still exhibits trauma. "I was preparing food before going to work," he said.

"Suddenly the rebels started shelling from the other side of the Nile. Two shells fell, then the third hit my house. I was inside one room and the shell hit the other. There was a huge explosion and the ground shook. Everything was burned. It had taken me 15 years to buy those things. Now they are all gone. I could hear the sound of the explosion in my ears for two days. It was awful."

New clashes in Renk this month saw rocket fire from Mr Machar's rebels, and an artillery barrage in response from government forces controlling the town. Civilians have fled, more than halving the population. …

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