KOCH, South Sudan – Sarah Nyanchar fled her home in South Sudan's war-torn Unity state months ago, but with fighting continuing despite a peace deal signed last month she still doesn't feel safe enough to return and begin rebuilding her life.
"The peace did not reach here," Nyanchar told The Associated Press Friday, after venturing from her hiding place in a rural forest to Koch town to get food aid.
"We heard that there would be no fighting here," she said, adding that she has heard clashes since the peace accord was signed at the end of August.
South Sudan has been hit by a civil war since December 2013 when President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his vice-president Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer. The fighting has often been marked by ethnic violence. Tens of thousands have been killed and 2 million have been displaced, according to the U.N. The peace agreement was supposed to end the conflict, but fighting has continued.
Accompanying deliveries of food aid, The Associated Press visited two towns in Koch County of South Sudan's Unity state, one held by the government and the other held by rebels. People gathered in both centers to get food assistance, but said they feared new rounds of violence.
Swampy, oil-rich Koch County bore the brunt of a government offensive launched in late April. The army and its allied militias raped and murdered civilians and burned villages in that campaign, according to the U.N. Now the government controls most towns in the area and the rebels operate from the countryside.
The rebels attacked Koch town twice this month, the government's deputy county commissioner William Malual told AP.
The rebels blame the government for the violence, said opposition spokesman George Gatloy, speaking in rebel-held Bauw village.