South Sudan: Testimonies from Bentiu protection of civilians site
I think the war should be between armed groups. But here, it is the civilians who are targeted. The women are raped, the children are abducted. When our village was attacked, a four-year-old girl was taken and another girl was killed when we were running away. She was only 14.
During the attack three years ago, we ran into the bush and waited for more than a day until it was quieter. We then made our way to the protection of civilians site (PoC). We used to work the land and owned cattle. Now everything is gone. Life here is not easy. When we are outside we are afraid we could be attacked. Here, we are protected. When I am inside; nobody can kill me.
We don’t complain about food, but there isn’t enough for everyone because there are a lot of people here. Do I want to go home? Yes. But we can’t decide when the war will end. We will go back home when there is peace.
My youngest son was born here in the PoC, a month after I arrived here with my six other children. We had walked for four days. I was carrying a child on my back and I was eight-months pregnant. My husband didn’t travel with us: it is safer for a family to travel without a man if you don’t want to be targeted by an armed group.
There were a lot of killings in our area, the village was looted and all the food and the cattle disappeared. Our house was burnt. Attacks happened almost every day. One day they would kill people, the next they would burn the house. Children, old people, everybody was killed. When we ran, there was no time to take anything and some people had to leave their children behind because they could not go back and get them.
Every second day, I leave the PoC and I walk for five hours to find firewood that I then sell in the camp. I don’t feel that it is safe to leave the site but it is the only way to get a little money to buy cooking oil, soap or more food for the children. Sometimes when I am outside I have to run because people shoot. I don’t know why. I feel safe in the PoC, safer than I felt in the village, and there is no killing here. My children go to school and I am very excited about that. Maybe they won’t have to collect wood from the forest when they grow up.
An MSF staff member
We walked during the day and, if we weren’t too tired, we would walk at night as well. There were 200 people in our group – we left as a village. There was nothing for us there, people had fled for their lives and all the food was gone. Children were getting sick and we couldn’t let them starve.
There were children as young as six months with us. The women and younger children walked slower and this meant that they got separated from the main group. It was around 4pm when we heard shouting and realised that the women at the back were being robbed. We ran to them but by the time we reached them the attackers had taken all their belongings and their clothes. Everyone was terrified and we hid in the bush for hours.
After a time we convinced the group to start moving again, but we all decided to walk slowly and to stick together. The men walked at the front, side and back of the group – the women and children walked in the middle. I carried my two-year old son the whole way. None of us had anything to eat for three days.
My wife was crying. At a point, we lost the group and it was just the three of us so we began walking very quickly; we just wanted to get to Bentiu as fast as possible without any other problems. After a few hours we met the group from our village as they had stopped to rest. They were all still very afraid because they had been told that the road ahead was not safe and so we decided to wait until dark before continuing on our way.
Mothers were desperately trying to keep their babies from crying as we all tried to walk silently through the night. It was very stressful. By early the next morning we had arrived at the PoC. I felt so happy and safe to finally be there.
We were all very tired, weak, hungry and dehydrated after days of walking. The following morning I went to the MSF hospital and was warmly welcomed. The team cared for us.