Civil society hit by violence in South Sudan


The conflict in South Sudan affects the young country’s fragile civil society. Charles Onak Judo’s office was looted, and he himself had to flee his home town with his pregnant wife.

My family and I experienced five days of terrible fighting. We needed to flee as my wife was close to giving birth, explained Charles Onak Judo. He escaped from his home town Malakal, northeast in South Sudan. The town was heavily affected by the fighting between the opposition and government forces in mid-January. Charles Onak Judo is leader for the "Upper Nile Youth Development Association (UNYDA)".

This is a network of eight youth organisations from the Upper Nile, which works with food security and the extractive industry.

Arrived safely 

The office of the organization was looted during the fighting, Charles Onak Judo estimates that the looters took items with an value of approximately 25 000 USD. He also received reports of international organisations such as the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières having their offices looted and employees having to flee Malakal. The government forces now claim to have control over Malakal. 

During the fighting, Charles Onak Judo decided to flee with his family to safety in the neighboring country Sudan. They had to wait nine days by the border, until his wife and children were allowed to pass through. After a while, Charles was allowed entry, and could be reunited with his family in Khartoum in Sudan. My wife got a child, right after the terrible journey we’ve had. God is great, said Charles Onak Judo.

Oil plays a key role

 Charles Onak Judo visited Norway in November 2013, as one of of 25 selected participants from resource rich countries in the South. They participated on PWYP Norway’s "TRACE-program", focusing on corruption and capital flight from the extractive industries. Malakal holds a strategic important position in South Sudan, as it is the gateway to the oil fields in the Upper Nile state. This state delivers "80 % of the country’s oil production"

Irrespective of what started this conflict, it is important to notice that the fighting has been centered in the oil-rich states in the north, where a large proportion of people have been forced to flee from their homes. These areas have one of the largest oil reserves in sub-saharan Africa, only surpassed by Nigeria and Angola, said Mona Thowsen, secretary general of PWYP Norway.

Civil society important for future peace

Even when houses and roads has been demolished, there is education and knowledge left in the population. This is partly a result of the contact between South Sudan and other countries*, said Liv Torres, secretary general of Norwegian People's Aid , in a meeting on "South Sudan in Oslo on Thursday". She characterizes the civil society of South Sudan as weak, but with great potential.

Many organisations have popped up after the independence. The civil society delivers an important voice, and can play a constructive role in the future, said Torres. This week the news came that the South Sudanese civil society could play an important role in the peace negotiations. The trading bloc IGAD has the task of monitoring the ceasefire. They want to include parties outside the government party SPLM, such as religious leades and other participants from the civil society.

Charles Onak Judo has given PWYP Norway the permission to tell his story under full name_