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Friday, January 3, 2014

Video and Images of the Crisis in South Sudan

A Christian minister at a United Nations camp in South Sudan led people in forming a “chain of peace” to symbolize their desire for a peaceful end to the violence gripping the country.

As my colleague Nicholas Kulish reported, thousands of South Sudanese have fled their homes in recent days as fighting between forces loyal to the government of President Salva Kiir have fought against a rebellion led by his former vice president, Riek Machar, plunging the young nation into chaos.

The fighting began last month when units of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, the national military, staged an antigovernment mutiny, which Mr. Kiir accused Mr. Machar of orchestrating. The violence soon spread across the country, pitting members of South Sudan’s two dominant ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer, against each other. Since then an estimated 180,000 people have fled their homes, and much of the country has been left in ruins.

Many of these internally displaced persons have sought shelter on more than a dozen bases belonging to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Toby Lanzer, a United Nations special representative in South Sudan, said in an update posted to Twitter on Friday that there were an estimated 30,000 seeking shelter on United Nations bases in the capital alone.

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan posted several videos to YouTube in recent days that showed glimpses of life inside these compounds. In one video, a Christian minister led a group of South Sudanese in forming a “chain of peace” to symbolize their desire for a peaceful outcome to the country’s unfolding crisis. In a second video, United Nations police officers can be seen searching people’s bags and later explaining the challenges of securing a rapidly growing camp.

“Our major preoccupation now as U.N. police is enforcing law and order in these camps,” an unidentified police spokesman said. “And enforcing law and order in these camps means people being free from arms, from machetes, no uniforms at all. We want coexistence in these camps.”

United Nations police officers in South Sudan explained the challenges of securing a rapidly growing camp for people fleeing violence.

Last week, Sudarsan Raghavan, a correspondent for The Washington Post, described the chaos in a dispatch from Malakal, a South Sudanese town that was heavily damaged by fighting between rival factions of the national army on Christmas Eve.

The corpses of soldiers, dressed in camouflage fatigues, lay in the streets and ditches. Shop after shop had been plundered, leaving the poor and hungry to scavenge through the remains. Houses burned to the ground still smoldered, the scars of the four days of chaos that tore through this town.

Not even the U.N. peacekeepers’ base was entirely safe. A bullet passed through the stomach of Nyauny Otham, who had sought refuge there with her family and thousands of other terrified civilians. On Saturday, the 6-year-old rested in a hospital bed, a white sheet covering her tiny body.

The conflict between the forces loyal to President Kiir and those under the command of Mr. Machar has appeared to focus in recent days on the central town of Bor, just 120 miles north of Juba, the capital.

Aris Roussinos and Phil Caller, two journalists from Vice Media, a self-described “youth media company” based in Brooklyn, said in a series of posts to Twitter on Friday that they traveled to Bor from Juba on a military helicopter. They men shared pictures and insights from the trip on Twitter.

Mr. Roussinos said that government military officers expressed confidence in their ability to maintain control of at least some parts of Bor and said that “rumors of a rebel advance” on the capital were “untrue.”