Evidence of Violence, Civilian Displacement in South Sudan’s Jonglei State

The human rights and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan’s largest state of Jonglei continues to worsen. The long history of rebellion and inter-ethnic clashes in Jonglei has evolved into three overlapping crises: major intercommunal attacks between Murle and Lou Nuer militias, which have led to thousands of deaths and displacements; anongoing destructive rebellion led by David Yau Yau; and major human rights abuses committed by South Sudan’s army against Murle civilians. The suffering of Jonglei’s civilian population is intensifying from the continuing violence and a lack of access to humanitarian assistance.
The US government estimates that more than 100,000 civilians are currently displaced. Most towns have been abandoned, with the civilian population scattered into the bush. Because it is the height of the rainy season, their health and nutritional status is further imperiled. To make matters worse, most health centers have been looted or destroyed. Violence and displacement has been particularly high in the southern towns of Pibor and Boma since May of this year.
Review of DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery of areas within Jonglei by Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, revealed destruction of portions of the central market and abandonment of residential areas in Pibor. In addition, there was considerable expansion of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, or SPLA, encampment in the town. Figure 1 shows the central market area in Pibor before and after the destruction that occurred between May and June 2013. Figures 2 and 3 depict the expansion of an SPLA camp in Pibor over that same period. Two outlying SPLA defensive posts located less than 2 kilometers north and east of the town and an SPLA position adjacent to the dirt runway in town were the only forces in the area prior to the hostilities in 2013. By May 2013, both of theoutlying posts were abandoned and probably combined to augment the main camp in town. The number of tents dispersed around the perimeter and within town suggests an SPLA infantry battalion is now stationed there.
Figure 4 shows the destruction and possible looting that took place at two probable NGO camps on the south side of town. Reports stated that rebels overran Boma, but the town was recaptured by the South Sudanese army on May 18 after days of fighting. DigitalGlobe imagery from May, although considerably loudy, still shows that destruction in the town took place between May 17 and June 20, 2013, when some tukuls in the village were destroyed, leaving only the mud-brick walls (Figure 5). Tents (probably storing UN or NGO supplies) appear razed and looted at Boma (Figure 6). These images are illustrative of the destruction being wrought in the multi-dimensional crisis that is escalating in Jonglei. SSP/DigitalGlobe will continue to review imagery in an attempt to determine culpability for attacks on civilians.
(1) Doki, Charlton. Voice of America, “UN in S. Sudan Says Security Allows Return to Boma .” Last modified June 03, 2013. Accessed July 25, 2013. http://www.voanews.com/content/un-south-sudan-security-returnboma-yauyau-rebels/1674638.html.