Thursday, 9 March 2017

South Sudan

Sudan was one of those nations I knew very little about except for the occasional news bulletin or striking image by a colleague covering the brutal conflict that raged between North and South , African and Arab ,  fuelled I assume by oil and generations of racial oppression . In the not too distant past even Hollywood celebrities began speaking out about the gross injustices suffered by non Arabs in Sudan including accusations of genocide in Darfur . Finally in 2011 South Sudan gained independence and personally, probably out of ignorance I assumed that all would now be well .

I've just come back from a visit to South Sudan for the Daily Telegraph with some tremendous help on the ground from UNICEF UK and other UN agencies . In fact without UNICEF the trip may never have happened, working as a journalist in this fledgling nation is incredibly difficult and often dangerous . Navigating the bureaucracy to gain all the correct accreditation and Visas alone needs a phd, a lot of patience and smiles when all you want to do is pull out your hair scream at someone .

I travelled with Tom Rowley a feature writer at the Daily Telegraph who was awarded " Young Journalist of the Year 2016 " by the British Press Awards,  and recently moved over to our Foreign Desk . Tom had a few good ideas for stories for the trip but as always working for a newspaper things always change on the ground .
Our original plan was to travel north of the capital Juba to the town of Bentiu but famine was declared shortly before departure and on arrival it appeared that aid flights were now far busier with guessed it aid, and journalists were understandably long down their list of priorities .

One of our original stories did still work out, we watched as 25 yr old mother Nyabura Nyon was reunited with her children after being torn apart by the conflict three years before . This took place in the POC Three camp inside the enormous UN compound on the outskirts of Juba where over 20,000 civilians currently reside, half of those children .