Taking stock of the dead in one of South Sudan’s most ravaged cities

Bodies covered in plastic sheet in Bor, on February 9. Photos by the Enough Project.
 
 
As negotiations continue to end the conflict in South Sudan, displaced people are just starting to return home, notably in Bor, north of the capital Juba. This strategic town was the scene of particularly violent fighting between the army and mutineers. More than a hundred people were killed, and their bodies were left to decompose in the open air. These apocalyptic scenes were photographed by activists from the non profit organisation Enough Project, who traveled to Bor on February 9.
 
The local authorities came back to town at the end of January, and started the difficult task of sorting and identifying the bodies. In Bor, the last battles took place on January 19, when the army managed to recapture the town from the rebels. This means that the bodies lay in the streets for weeks. As a result, some bodies “are beyond recognition because they have decomposed; others have no one to claim them after relatives fled,” said Johan Madit, a security officer in Bor.
 
The authorities have divided Bor into nine areas. Each one will be carefully examined to see if more bodies may have been hastily buried by local residents during the fighting. Last Tuesday, several bodies were put into the ground during a mass burial. Others may follow, as Bor’s mayor Nhial Majak has explained he wants to give proper burials to all unidentified bodies.
 
Photo published on Twitter by Radio Tamazuj. 
 
Here are some of photographs taken by activists with the Enough Project. The bodies have been covered in plastic sheets.
 
     
    Fighting began in South Sudan mid-December, in the capital Juba. It pitted the army against mutineers, but there was also an ethnic component to the conflict: President Salva Kiir, who was backed by the country’s army, belongs to the Dinka ethnicity, while the mutineers supported his former vice president, who is from the Nuer ethnicity. The town of Bor was taken by the rebels on December 19, but then changed hands several times before the army secured the town on January 18.
     
    Several thousand people have lost their lives in the recent fighting, which has also displaced nearly 900,000 people. Negotiations between both sides have been underway since January 24, when a ceasefire was signed. However, several sources have reported that fighting is continuing in certain regions of South Sudan, a country that is only three years old. It gained its independence in 2011, following a conflict in which at least two million people lost their lives.
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