Born out of brutality, South Sudan, the world’s youngest state, drowns in murder, rape and arson

The canoe is barely visible at first, a dark shape moving among the lily pads and grasses in the vast expanse of South Sudan’s Sudd marshes.

The little craft is laden with five villagers – faces anxious and tired – and the few possessions they were able to rescue as they fled fighting around the counties of Leer and Mayendit, two days distant by boat.

Like others arriving in the opposition-held marsh town of Nyal in recent weeks, they recount horrifying stories of atrocities: people burned to death in their houses by government soldiers, arbitrary shootings, rape and widespread looting of cattle, the villagers’ major source of wealth.