What you need to know:
- The conflict initially pitted Dinka and Nuer supporters of President Salva Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar against each other.
Isaac waited as soldiers came to take away his cellmates, fearing the worst as the uniformed men returned alone, spattered in blood.
A day earlier the 24-year-old was detained by soldiers from South Sudan’s majority Dinka tribe while taking medicine to his father outside Yei Town.
The soldiers discovered the medicine and knew he was a member of the Kakwa ethnic group.
They accused him of supplying drugs to rebels — many of them Kakwa — and took him to a military base.
Four others shared the cell overnight. A man named James was the first to be called out.
“They said he was going to fetch water. That guy was not back until now,” said Isaac, who spoke to journalists in a Uganda refugee camp and did not want to give his last name.
Later, when the soldier returned, “his chest was bloodied, even the legs were full of blood.” A second man was called out.
Fearing for their lives, Isaac and his cellmate prayed and cried out. Five soldiers responded to their shouts.
Hearing that two Kakwa had disappeared, the Equatorian soldiers went to their Dinka commander.
“He said that was not his concern,” said Isaac.
From the window of his cell, he could see what happened next.
At the order of the commander, the soldiers were each given 50 strokes of the cane.
Hours later, the soldiers turned their guns on their officers and demanded the release of the prisoners.
The cell door was opened and Isaac fled.
Ethnic violence has characterised South Sudan’s crisis since conflict erupted in 2013, and refugees fleeing Yei have described a pattern of killings in the town.
The conflict initially pitted Dinka and Nuer supporters of President Salva Kiir and former vice-president Riek Machar against each other.
It now involves other tribes taking sides.
His story echoes those told by more than 20 refugees.
Irene, from the Lulobo ethnic group, fled Mambe in Yei River State when Dinka men raided her house, shot her husband.
“The person who shot him just knocked at the door and called him by name. When he heard that, he pushed me and the children under the bed,” said the 28-year-old.
The soldiers burst in and shot her husband.
Irene and the children fled but while walking to Uganda, she and her group encountered another group of armed Dinka.
“Two women were raped. The men took two infants and used them to beat the women,” she said.
Nasir Abel Fernandes, a UNHCR official in northern Uganda agrees.
“It’s a pattern that everybody who comes across the border tells us. They feel they’re being killed because of their ethnicity,” Fernandes said.