South Sudan: Child Soldiers, Shortages, Ethnic Strife in Wau Shilluk

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The South Sudanese government released a statement on March 12, 2015 saying that the 89 children said by UNICEF to have been abducted in Wau Shilluk were to be released. Reports say that the children were undergoing military training by the loyalist militia of Johnson Oloni to quell attacks by Nuer separatists. Human Rights Watch also released a statement saying the children as young as 13 years-old were being trained both by loyalist and anti-government SPLA forces in Malakal, the contested capital of Upper Nile State.

This footage was filmed in Wau Shilluk in July 2014 with the permission of Johnson Oloni, after residents of Malakal fled to Wau Shilluk, the center of the ancient Shilluk Kingdom, amid brutal fighting between pro- and anti-government forces. Oloni's milita is seen parading through the village after delivering arms and aid from local businessmen to locals and displaced people, among them children brandishing weapons. Children chase the militia's boats as they arrive, and gather round the militiamen chanting, "we have a strong force! Thank you for bringing weapons! We will fight them and destroy them!"

Since the time of filming, the population of Wau Shilluk has swelled drastically with the influx of IDPs from the Malakal area. However, even early on locals testify to the hardship they face amid shortages. They say the government hasn't been able to pay their salaries in months due to the conflict. They expressed despair amid an unresolved security situation that only seems to have worsened as continues, and as more and more children are dragged into the fight.


  1. Various shots of children chanting and dancing to welcome loyalist militiamen in Wau Shilluk.
  2. A child soldier brandishes an AK47 and dances before a crowd of local children.
  3. Militiamen, and a few child soldiers, march and jog through Wau Shilluk.
  4. Various shots of militiamen outside a makeshift barracks on the outskirts of Wau Shilluk.
  5. Medium shot of a child soldier holding an AK47 rifle.
  6. Various shots of militiamen boarding a boat.
  7. Medium shot of a child soldier dancing with an AK47 on the boat.
  8. Shots from the boat of villagers running along the river as the boat leaves.
  9. Various shots of markets and huts in Wau Shilluk.
  10. Various shots of piles of aid in Wau Shilluk.
  11. Various shots of IDPs belongings piled around Wau Shilluk.
  12. Various shots of a ceremonial dance, presided over by a Shilluk chief.
  13. Soundbites with locals and IDPs


  1. soundbite
    Teacher, IDP from Malakal (M), : We came here in January following the events in Malakal. Everyone went to the villages to save their lives. When we came we suffered a lot due to different circumstances. First of all, we are now in the fall season. The biggest challenge we have faced is finding accommodation, but some organizations provided us with tents. The World Food Program is dropping food supplies from the sky, but the number of refugees is very large, so the food is not enough. We demand the government to care about us as citizens. Second, we were supposed to be receiving salaries since January, because we are government employees. They say that they will transfer salaries from Juba, and some ministries received their allocated salaries and monthly allowances. I am a physical education instructor and I have not received my salary for the past six months. I will support others if I received my salary, but we are now suffering and relying on aid from organizations, which is not enough for all the people. We demand support from the government, which should pay monthly salaries on time so that we could help those who are suffering. The government needs to send salaries to people wherever they are. There should be a committee to pay monthly salaries to people without delay.
  2. soundbite
    Merchant from Wau Shilluk (M): There is a sharp price hike. At the present, we are receiving merchandise from the north [Republic of Sudan]. Following the rainfall, river steamboats have faced a difficulty to navigate. This caused a problem. Prices have blown out of proportion.
  3. soundbite
    Street Food Vendor (F): We do not want people from the Nuer tribe in our region. We want our own president and capital. The Nuer should have a separate capital. The Nuer should not be with us because in the future we do not need them. Our hands are empty and our children have brought us food, but we do not want the Nuer. We, the Shilluk, want our own country.
  4. soundbite
    Shop Owner (M): These days prices are a little high in Wau Shlo. We demand the authorities to give us aid, if they have any. They need to supply us with merchandise so that prices go down a little.
  5. soundbite
    Young Displaced Man 1: We came here because of the conflict in Malakal and we settled in Wau Shilluk. People here are struggling to survive. The situation is very miserable. There is nothing. There is a shortage of basic supplies. People struggle to be able to buy a bag of corn or sugar for 10 pounds so that they would be able to eat. We wish that the situation would be stable and everyone return to their homes. We hope for that there would be security and that we live like we used to.
  6. soundbite
    Young Displaced Man 2: I came to Wau Shilluk because of the situation in the Upper Nile state. The situation is not good. It is not reassuring. I hope that the situation returns to what it was before and that everyone returns to their homes. I thank the organizations for the services they offered us in the Upper Nile state.
  7. soundbite
    Young Displaced Man 3: I hope that there would be stability everywhere in the Upper Nile state. I hope that people would be safe and live in permanent peace.
  8. soundbite
    Government Employee (M): The war that is going on is only taking place within the government. The Popular Movement government split into two parts. One side rebelled against the other, which stayed in the [presidential] palace. They have started to kill, rape and destroy cities. They did not spare anyone, even unarmed citizens. This is why we fled to Wau Shilluk. But we are suffering even in Wau Shilluk. I have not been paid since December. Other citizens have not been paid either. They [the government] give money to areas such as Melut, Akouka, and Rang, and then when it is the turn of our district, Wau Shilluk, to receive money, they say there is no security. This is the situation that we are suffering in Wau Shilluk.