Juba - As thousands of people flee the conflict in South Sudan's northern
border states, increasing numbers have also been forced to leave their homes
and towns in search of affordable food.
As tension between South Sudan and Sudan continues in the South Sudanese
northern areas of Unity, Upper Nile, Northern and Western Bahr al Ghazal
states, the conflict has more than doubled the price of basic commodities,
making it difficult for many here to afford.
In the border town of Bentiu, the price of a 50-kilogramme sack of sorghum
has increased from 10 dollars to 24, while a kilogramme of sugar has tripled
from one to three dollars.
"A 20 litre jerry can of cooking oil rose from 20 to 40 dollars in the last
two weeks," said Simon Kenyi, a teacher in Bentiu.
"Traders who used to bring in these goods from Elobeid in Sudan's Southern
Kordofan state are unable to do so now because the border is closed," he
For the last month, traders who usually import foodstuffs from Southern
Kordofan in Sudan have been victims of violence along the route to South
Sudan. Many have stopped trying to cross the border altogether.
The rapid increase in prices of consumer goods has forced residents of
Bentiu, which is the capital of Unity state, to flee to towns in South
Sudan's greater Equatoria region, where consumer goods imported from East
Africa are in abundance and relatively cheaper. The southern states of
Western, Central and Eastern Equatoria share borders with the Central
African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya and
"Many people here are moving their families to Juba and Yei, in Central
Equatoria state, because they can no longer afford food," Bonifacio Taban, a
local journalist in Bentiu, said.
Fighting between South Sudan and Sudan took a turn on Apr. 10 when South
Sudan occupied the disputed oil-producing town of Heglig, in Sudan's
Southern Kordofan state. Both countries have laid claim to the town, which
lies in a border area.
According to South Sudan's Minister of Information Barnaba Marial Benjamin,
the country occupied Heglig to stop Sudan's military, the Sudan People's
Armed Forces or SAF, from continuing to launch ground and air attacks from
The South Sudanese army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), were
ready to withdraw provided that international monitors were sent to Heglig
and Sudan agreed to international arbitration to determine which country
owns the area, he had said at the time.
However, after South Sudan's withdrawal on Apr. 23, the country says that
Sudan has continued attacks.
Unity State Governor Taban Deng Guy said this week that 75 people had died
in aerial bombardments in his state in the last few months; it includes
casualties in Bentiu town and other parts of the state.
In the same state, thousands of civilians have been displaced following
ground clashes between the SPLA and the SAF, and aerial bombardments by the
South Sudan's Deputy Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster
Preparedness Sabrina Dario Okolong said that residents of Unity state are
fleeing the aerial bombardments in the northern part of the state and were
making their way south to Nhiakdiu, Mayendit, Leer, Koch and Guit counties
in search of safety.
"We also have about 1,500 people who have been displaced from Pariang County
(a county in Unity state that borders Heglig) and we have the United Nations
agencies verifying 1,693 IDPs in Pariang and 303 IDPs in Panyang," Okolong
said. Panyang is an administrative unit comprised of a number of villages
within Pariang County.
An aid worker, who did not want to be named, estimated that 5,000 to 10,000
people had become internally displaced in the state.
The death toll from the conflict is not known, however, the U.N. says after
South Sudan withdrew from Heglig, 16 civilians were killed in air raids and
ground attacks within Unity state alone.
Dozens of foreign traders from Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Ethiopia and Eritrea are
fleeing Bentiu where, on Apr. 23, SAF warplanes bombed a market and a bridge
killing four people and wounding four others.
Makosa Kabanga, a Congolese trader who arrived in Juba from Bentiu on Apr.
24, said he was scared to stay in Bentiu because of the air raids.
"We were five Congolese who left Bentiu for Juba late last week. We feared
the fighting in Heglig. Although Bentiu was a bit far from it, it was too
much for us," he told IPS. "We feared that there was going to be bombing in
Bentiu and that's what happened after we left. We will only return to Bentiu
when the fighting and bombing stops," he said.
But in South Sudan's capital city of Juba some commodities are not so easy
to find. Fuel stations have run out of petrol and there are long queues of
motorbikes and cars as people wait their turn to purchase the commodity,
which has almost doubled in price since the fighting intensified.
"We used to buy a litre of petrol at one dollar but now it costs more than
three dollars," Moses Taban, a motorcycle taxi operator, said.
An oil dealer in Juba, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of
repercussions, said he believed that there is a shortage of petrol because
the SPLA purchase large quantities of fuel from him recently.
"The SPLA bought hundreds of thousands of litres from us. It takes time to
bring in more fuel from Kenya... that is why you are seeing a shortage," he
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Received on Mon Apr 30 2012 - 19:05:54 EDT