JUBA: – From a 14-month old toddler to a 105-year old grandmother: the first names of some of the tens of thousands killed in South Sudan were released Monday, one year since civil war began.
With no official toll, South Sudanese civil society volunteers have spent months collecting, cross checking and confirming the names of those killed.
“This list, although a fraction of the total loss, reflects the devastating human impact of South Sudan’s year long war in which no one has been officially counting the dead,” said Anyieth D’Awol, who is organizing the “Naming Those We Lost” project.
“Peace remains elusive, mass graves dot the landscape with civilians, both young and old, bearing the brunt of the fighting.”
The International Crisis Group estimates that at least 50,000 people have been killed, while some diplomats suggest it could even be double that figure.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said Monday “tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed,” but no official toll has been kept either by the government, rebels or UN.
For now, the list contains 572 names, with organizers appealing for people to submit the names of those they can confirm killed.
“It is a start,” D’Awol said, adding that the majority named were civilians, and most of those were young people. “As time continues to pass, the list of names will inevitably grow into a true reflection of the colossal loss of life that the people of South Sudan have once again suffered.”
Thousands were killed in the first weeks alone, before fighting spread to other towns and regions across the poverty-stricken young country.
Campaigners say South Sudan is locked in conflict, with the bloodshed that erupted in Juba exactly a year ago having set off a cycle of retaliatory massacres across large swathes of the country.
The names will be read aloud at candle-lit commemoration events in Juba and in Kenya, with organizers hoping radio stations may also broadcast the list.
“Religious groups, South Sudanese people and their friends around the country and in neighbouring countries are taking a moment to pause and acknowledge the dead,” D’Awol added.