South Sudan:

Hungry for peace

Since fighting broke out in South Sudan 15 December 2013, the world’s youngest nation has been plagued by conflict, sexual violence and hunger. Five years later, people are still waiting for peace to prevail.
Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Najema (13)

"I came here for security. People were being killed outside, in Juba. I was scared. We saw soldiers with guns. Our neighbours were killed. I was there, but we managed to escape and find protection," said Najema (13). She has been living in a UN protection site in Juba since early 2014.

"I want peace to come, so that I can go back home. Maybe we can leave, if they succeed in making peace. We hear about it on the radio and my parents are saying peace may come," she added. "Peace means that we can trust each other. That there is no violence. Even the people who used to kill, they will stop when peace arrives to South Sudan." 

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Mary

"We would love peace to be here. But you, people who are moving around, you are the ones who know best. Here, we know nothing about peace, but we would love peace to be here," said Mary (70), sitting outside her home in Twic East, together with two grandchildren.

A life marked by several conflicts and wars have made her less optimistic about the future. But she knows what she wants, and she prays for peace to prevail:

"The authorities – let them lead well. That is what I want in this world," she said, before adding a prayer for her visitors:

"For anybody coming to South Sudan, let them move safely and provide medicines and food so people do not die of hunger."

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Betty (14)

“I hope for peace, so everyone can return to their villages and we will have enough food to eat," said Betty (14), who has fled from Mukaya to Yei.  

What is peace for you?

"When people are free to move, free to talk and there is no fighting," she explained.

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Jane

"Peace? We're just listening to the radio and there they talk about peace. We do not know if it is coming. We´re just waiting for it," said Jane from Yei.

She tries not to get her hopes up:

"I have no hope. I am just waiting to see if the future will bring something good or bad."

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Clement (13)

"If peace returns, I hope we can go back to the village," said Clement (13).

He has fled fighting in Mukaya together with his family, and found safety in Yei.

"I used to go to school there. Life was fine there, until people started fighting," he added.

The young boy misses the village, his home and his cattle.

"We had cattle there, but we lost them," he explained.  

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Marte (13)

"When I hear the word peace I think about people who love each other and who can stay together without fighting. I want peace, because I want to go back to our village close to Bor, where we came from," said Marte (13). She is currently living in a UN protection site in Juba.

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Emilia

"I don't have any hope for South Sudan", Emilia declared. The war has claimed the life of her husband. After he was shot and killed, she fled from Mukaya and found protection in Yei. "If peace returns, I will go back," she added, but without much hope.

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Rufas (14)

"Peace is when there is no killing, when there is no abduction and children being taken to the frontline. When we cannot hear the sound of guns and when we can move freely at night," explained Rufas (14).

He recently had to flee fighting outside Yei, and has found safety in the town. Memories from the conflict are still haunting him:

"When we are in school we are with friends and we forget everything. But when we go home, we start thinking about what happened and what we left in the villages," he said. 

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Angelina

"If there is no war, there is peace. If there is war, there is no peace," Angelina simply explained. She has found safety at a UN protection site in Juba.

"When there is peace, we shall be very happy. But if there is war, we shall not get what we need," she added.

"I do not think the peace signed now is a real peace. In 2016 they said peace had come and we were all very happy. Then at the end of it, the peace turned into problems.

Now people are saying it is peace, peace has come. But I am quiet, I have not said anything about it. If there is real peace, it will find me here. I will not say anything yet.

I will be very, very happy when I see peace has reached each and every family.

Then I will say it is real peace."

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Charity (10)

"I have no hope for peace, because people are still fighting. Peace is when people have stopped fighting, when they can move freely and people are united and can stay together. When no neighbour comes and fight against the other," Charity (10) said.

She fled when conflict broke out in her village, and she has now found safety in Yei:

"I heard the sound of gunfire and I saw my uncle shot and killed. I was scared. I fled by foot, with my mother and siblings."

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Alice

"Let God provide us with peace, and let it continue", Alice, Charity’s mother, prays.

"We want peace, because we want to be happy. So that we do not have the hardship of bringing our children from the village to town, carrying them on our shoulders, to get them to safety," she explained.

"The meaning of peace, according to me, it is love. When people live together as one. That is when it is peace. When you can move freely. When you do not fear. When there is no killing of people."

"I believe peace will come," she said, before quickly reassuring her children: "I am sure it will come."

Read caption Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Nema

"We need peace. Peace means free movement, that we are able to get sufficient food and talk freely," said Nema from Yei, who is working as a hygiene promoter for NRC. She is particularly concerned about the devastating impact the conflicts in South Sudan have on the lives of women:

"Women are currently facing many challenges. When we fetch water and wood, armed men can come and rape us. That is why I say we need peace."