Violence in South Sudan: Showcasing the Best in Journalism (Part 4)

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We continue our series on excellent journalism by featuring an article by the Associated Press. This news outlet is also an international organization that is headquartered in New York City.

Here is how one of their articles starts:

South Sudan Ethnic Violence hits New High as Civilians Flee

“He told me not to be afraid,” Evelyn Juma says, remembering her husband. Tears stream down the young woman’s face as she sits on her unmade bed, her newborn nursing at her chest. “That’s the last thing he ever said to me.”

On the morning of April 10, when South Sudan government soldiers broke into Juma’s house in the northwestern town of Wau, the 24-year-old never dreamed it would be the last time she’d see her husband alive.

“They kept asking him if our neighbors were Nuer and which tribe we were from,” she says. When her husband refused to turn over their friends, the soldiers forced him outside and shot him in the head.

“I heard the gunshot,” Juma says, staring at her tiny daughter. She gave birth to the child, her first, just three days later.

At least 16 civilians were killed in Wau that day in what Human Rights Watch has called an “act of collective punishment, with soldiers taking revenge against unarmed civilians based on their ethnicity.”

What happened in Wau is not an isolated incident, according to human rights groups. Across South Sudan, accounts of government soldiers killing civilians based on their tribe are driving the country deeper into despair.

The world’s youngest nation in May reclaimed the number one spot on the world’s Fragile States Index, compiled by the Washington-based non-profit The Fund for Peace. Violence in April escalated to its highest level in more than three years, according to ACLED, a non-profit focused on armed conflict and data collection.

South Sudan’s civil war, now into its fourth year, has killed more than 50,000 people and plunged parts of the nation into famine. It’s being called a man-made disaster, and civilians and aid groups are largely holding government soldiers responsible.

A doctor who has worked at one of Wau’s hospitals since the beginning of the conflict says the only casualties he’s ever treated are civilians. A wounded government soldier has never walked through the door, he says. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

According to South Sudan’s independent Human Rights Observatory, 473 civilians were unlawfully killed across the country in April alone. Accounts of execution-style murders, the burning of bodies and revenge attacks were the most common. While opposition forces also have been blamed for some killings, the report concluded that the majority of deaths were caused by government forces and allied militias.

People from minority ethnic groups say they regularly lie to men in uniform when asked about their ethnicity, for fear of being killed.

Panicked communities are seeking refuge in United Nations-protected camps or fleeing to neighboring countries. Wau’s streets are now eerily bare. Shops are boarded shut, while rows of houses sit deserted.

The Associated Press often breaks exclusive news stories and keeps its readers abreast on what is happening around the world.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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