South Sudan: Too many bodies to count

BY newsdesk  April 23, 2014 at 2:37 PM EDT
This handout picture taken on April 15, 2014 and released on April 23 by the the United Nations Mission in South Sudan shows debris outside a mosque in the oil town of Bentiu, Unity State. "More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded," the UN mission in the country said, adding there were also massacres at a church, hospital and an abandoned UN World Food Programme compound. South Sudan's army has been fighting rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar, who launched a renewed offensive this month targeting key oil fields. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

This picture taken on April 15, 2014 and released April 23 by the the United Nations Mission in South Sudan shows debris outside a mosque in the oil town of Bentiu, Unity State. South Sudan’s army has been fighting rebels loyal to sacked vice president Riek Machar, who launched a renewed offensive this month targeting key oil fields. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Since December, violent fighting between the president’s forces and rebel groups in South Sudan has led to an estimated 1.1 million people driven from their homes — about 817,000 internally displaced and another 290,000 refugees driven into neighboring countries.

The Washington Post reports “[t]here is no body count for the city of Bentiu in South Sudan, perhaps because there are too many to count. The news from the United Nations’ mission in South Sudan only describes “piles and piles” of bodies. Other reports speak of streets “littered” with bodies.”

“More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded,” the UN mission in the country said, adding there were also massacres at a church, hospital and an abandoned UN World Food Programme compound.

Khalid Mustafa Medani is an associate professor of political science and Islamic studies at McGill University and an editor of Middle East Report. We interviewed Medani Wednesday in preparation for the lead story on the NewsHour broadcast. Here’s some of what he said on the conflict:

There has been historical conflict between the Nuer and Dinka since at least the 1990s. The people in these groups have been used as a proxy on the part of the leadership, and the problem with that is as these local communities are mobilized to fight, many of the innocent civilians flee their homes and villages because they’re concerned about reprisals. So in these regions, as the leaders utilize their communities against each other, scores of people flee their home towns and become displaced because they’re not only afraid of the militias, they’re afraid of their neighbors.