Saving South Sudan

Saving South Sudan

2014, Military and War  -   17 Comments
Ratings: 8.23/10 from 75 users.

In February 2014, journalist Robert Young Pelton and photojournalist Tim Freccia traveled to South Sudan to investigate the reasons for its quickly devolving civil war. Sudan has been divided by war for centuries. The Arab North preyed on the black Christian South. In the early eighties oil was discovered and the war intensified. Finally, after six decades of war both sides realized they needed to find peace to take advantage of the black gold.

In July of 2011 South Sudan finally achieved its own independence and became the world's newest nation. The majority Dinka tribe was represented by former military commander and now President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The second largest group, the Nuer, was represented by Dr. Riek Machar Teny who was appointed Vice President.

Things were looking up for South Sudan and now it had an official government. It was at peace with its Northern neighbor and both were glad to capitalize on the expected flow of oil and other natural resources. But on December 15th, 2013, everything fell apart.

Fighting in South Sudan had spread outside the capital Juba after reported coup attempt. President Salva Kiir immediately accused his former Vice President of orchestrating the fighting. The coup attempt is said to have started within the presidential guard. After the fight Dinka soldiers and the militia targeted Nuer soldiers and civilians. Soon over a thousand people were dead... mostly Nuer.

The next day President Salva Kiir sent soldiers and a tank over the Riek Machar's house. Luckily Dr. Machar and his wife Angelina had escaped the night before. To the outside world it just seemed like another violence speed bump on the road to prosperity. Except Dr. Riek Machar was planning to fight back and he was going to fight back in a way that would throw South Sudan into another civil war.

Robert Young Pelton needed to find Dr. Riek Machar and get his side of the story. So he teamed up with photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Freccia and to help facilitate their journey into the bush he also invited his friend Machot Lat Thiep, a former lost boy and Nuer child soldier to return to his homeland in South Sudan.

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17 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Human History

    Originating as a seasonal settlement during the 11th century, Timbuktu quickly grew in importance and eventually became a permanent settlement by the start of the 12th century. Due to a thriving economy based on book trading, salt, gold, spices and dyes,a strong concentration of both wealth and intellectuals flourished. As intellectual curiosity grew so did the number of books, reaching 20,000 in the city limits alone.

  2. Human History

    According to African scholar Shamil Jeppie, in chapter one of the seminal The Meanings of Timbuktu:

    "...Timbuktu is a repository of history, a living archive which anybody with a concern for African history should be acquainted with. Timbuktu may be hard to get to but it played an essential role as a centre of scholarship under the Songhay state until the invasion from the rulers of Marrakesh in 1591, and even thereafter it was revived."

  3. Human History

    University of Timbuktu! Not ignorant hopeless Africans.

  4. Human History

    Timbuktu! Thanks Donny for your enlightening contribution.

  5. Edu

    So you live in Nigeria and decide that one country represents the values and perceptions of a whole continent. Africa as we have obviously failed to make it clear to the privileged world that still continues to marginalize and deplete its people and resources is a continent with 54 different independent countries. Funny that the same society that created these different countries still fails to acknowledge their independence from each other.

    Clearly you have refused to be objective enough and look into the history of a society that you deem historically morally corrupt and doomed. You say that the African society has a total absence of any historical adherence to a universal set of morally-based laws. I wonder where you get your historical confusions. Just because you don't know something does not mean it does not exist. Morality does not have to be written to be understood and actually rarely is. Human morality is historically universally inherent and many African societies before the onset of colonization had their own set of rules and laws that were passed down clearly through its culture. It is sad that you lived in a society but failed to try and learn its history and the historical context of what was happening in that society. You seem to draw conclusions that fit a narrative that has been fed you by the same society that benefits from the turmoil that is in Africa. There is a lot of corruption in the world in general and granted in some parts it is at a grander scale than in others. However saying that a culture is doomed because of all the visible corruption is being naive. Would you rather be in a culture where the corruption happens behind closed doors and never comes to light but ends up in people being misled into giving up their lives and resources for causes that are fictional? I am in no way saying that one is better than the other, but I would rather see it happen rather than find our afterwards that I had been duped.

    I try to challenge myself before engaging in a discussion by asking myself whether what I am about to say is accurate and will it be beneficial to somebody else. I therefore challenge you to do the same and try to do the homework before giving a strong and charged opinion about an issue that you may not have enough knowledge about.

  6. bluetortilla

    VICE has clearly gained predominance in cutting edge journalism. Many thanks to courageous VICE journalists and thanks HBO. CNN et sad for you...

    1. David John Mowers

      VICE is awesome.


    never change ,barbaric,sad

  8. Who is they?

    Unfortunately, what's depicted here is typical. Having lived in Sub-Saharan Africa, I can attest to the hopelessness of the entire region.
    There is no history of any society there being founded on moral principles. None. Consequently, greed, pervasive corruption, survival of the fittest, indifference to the plight of others... and, the correct word - "barbarism" - is endemic; and frankly, this is a normal, or at least 'expected', way of life there.
    "Leaders" and other self-delusional people in the 'civilized' West, ie., societies which have an established groundwork of laws designed to rein in man's baser instincts - willfully and deliberately blind themselves to this reality.
    As it says in the Bible, "The truth shall set you free." So many lives, so much time, money and effort is just thrown away on trying to change what cannot change - human nature.

    And with morally bankrupt Africa, it's far too late now.
    For those of you who choose to be 'hopefuls', ask yourself, "Where is any evidence of ANY written language originating from Sub-Saharan Africa? And, "Is there a record of ANY history of ANY part of this area having been written by a native African?
    When you accept the honest answer, do you ever wonder why?

    1. Wasike

      "Having lived in sub-saharan Africa, I can attest to the hopelessness of the entire region." I wonder which specific country in this region you were based in because for you to follow up this spiteful remark with a statement as outrageous as "There is no history of any society there being founded on moral principles". Narrow minded delinquents like you are the major reason a vast number of our people despise western dogma and treat your views with indignation.
      You speak of Africa as if it is one homogeneous unit with no cultural diversity or divergent belief systems. You speak of Sub-saharan Africa as if you understand the historical or social-economic context of the struggles and conflicts we have had to deal with from pre-colonial to post-colonial epochs.
      What do you actually know of the Dinka or Nuer animosity or its origins? Probably the hollow propaganda and misconceptions fed to you by your ignorant media houses who are always eager to paint Sub-Saharan Africa as a destabilized, polarized,uncivilized region with their half-baked, poorly researched news reports.
      We Africans have our cultures and our rich histories which no european, latin american,asian or even arab can begin to comprehend unless you have actually lived, practiced and experienced first hand. No one can understand another man's culture until they have lived through it.
      This indictment of Africans as savage people with no moral values as if the west is the paragon of virtue we must look up to is offensive. Granted our continent has its problems I'll be the first to admit, but we will continue to attempt to tackle them as best as we can. Africans wish for peace and tranquility as much as any other people on this earth, we wish for progress and prosperity for our posterity as well.
      So before you go passing self-righteous judgments about a people you barely understand please at least try and learn their history & culture first.

    2. Who is they?

      I understand your sensitivity to my comments. Of course no one likes to be generalized about.
      So, perhaps some clarification is in order.
      First, you're absolutely correct about Westerners being far from "paragon(s) of virtue." Virtue, ie., 'good', and evil exist on a continuum within humans, comprising what is commonly known as 'human nature'. All humans have the capacity for both ends of the spectrum, with the baser instincts prevailing UNLESS they are rigorously checked.

      "Civilization" is the result of determined efforts by virtuous men (of course impelled by women) to proactively reign in - check - the worst aspects of human nature. These efforts historically have ALWAYS been founded upon some religious or spiritual doctrine espousing MORALS, which then dictated the norms by which people could live together with some degree of peace and harmony.
      The creation of enforceable LAWS to implant these norms became the whole basis for "civilized" society.

      With the absence of any common set of spiritual/moral beliefs, this revelation/evolution never occurred in sub-saharan Africa, except to the extent that it was introduced by those hated western 'colonialists'. Once they left, or were driven out (hallelujah!), without the shared spiritual foundation, unfortunately Africa simply reverted - literally - back to its roots - that of constant chaos, vicious turmoil, and often near-anarchy.
      The BASER ASPECTS OF HUMAN NATURE (unchecked by a common spiritual set of norms and the consequent enforceable laws) again began PREVAILING. Barbarism - the absence of 'civilization' - as depicted in this video, is barely, and often not, contained.

      So, far too many of the multitudes of peoples occupying the continent who are on the 'good' side of the continuum are left, inexorably, to endure abysmal conditions and often unspeakable human suffering...

      I lived in Nigeria, purported to be one of your most 'advanced' nations. God help us. Rampant corruption, abject squalor, incessant internecine tribal feuding/fighting, marauding bands of armed robbers - all these and more are merely a part of daily life there.
      As the saying in Nigeria goes (even, and especially, acknowledged by the locals), "Nothing works." The corollary to this is "Chaos reigns."

      As awful and distressing as it is, the total absence of any historical adherence to a universal set of morally-based laws will ever deem Africa as, indeed - "hopeless." And euphemistically describing Nigeria and other countries in the region "developing" is, if it weren't so sad, laughable.

      But you are completely correct about the difficulty others have in understanding different cultures. I found it especially perplexing in Africa. Perhaps it's because in the entire region, there was no written language ever developed. Hence, there is no source - no native-written history - by which one could even try to understand your 'culture'.

      As for you, you're obviously one of the good ones. I sincerely wish you good luck, and your homeland well. But the evidence is clear, the facts irrefutable.

      I wish it weren't so.

  9. Fabien L

    That's an example of the best Vice has to offer. These guys have incredible guts going in such a chaotic civil war zone, Common sense dictates to run away at the first sight of rotting corpses laying around! The bit where the driver says he killed the previous owner of the truck with a smile is bone chilling. I can't understand how come they didn't get killed for their money and gear.

    1. JCWolf73

      you didnt notice their gun man off camera at times, not wanting to be filmed.

  10. Terry "OldFox" Seale

    This is a pretty powerful case that the most pressing problem in the world is the US Minimum Wage, eh?

  11. Lowball

    It's still about the crude, dude.

  12. dmxi

    africa,our playing ground.....we'll kill all with a blink of a
    paycheck, just nourish our insatiable need for greed!they have bonobo's & giraffes... we have bono's & geldorfs!

    1. NX2

      Or perhaps the blink of higher interest rates. That 'r' would be a typo? Anyway, his neck isn't that long, is it?