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Inside the Front Lines Of South Sudan's Unwinnable War

Government and rebel forces are vying for control with neither side is anywhere near securing a decisive military victory.

Kajo Keji, SOUTH SUDAN — Two Toyota pickup trucks filled with heavily armed rebels rattled down a bumpy dirt track. The convoy steadily advanced toward the front lines near Kajo Keji, a small town in the southern Equatoria region of South Sudan that has recently become a hotspot in the country's civil war.

"Salva Kiir has looked for trouble this year," the soldiers sang in call-and-reply, taunting the ruling president they're seeking to oust. "This year it will be fire! Next year it will still be fire!"

The trucks came to a halt in Loopo, about two miles from the front line. The soldiers fanned out as Moses Lokujo, brigadier general in the rebel army, walked through the deserted village. Two weeks earlier, anticipating defeat, the rebels had retreated in what Lokujo described as "tactical withdrawal." When they returned a week later, they found government forces had looted and destroyed Loopo's primary school and torched most of its huts.

Across Equatoria, villages like Loopo are being swept up in violence as government and rebel forces vie for control, spelling destruction for once idyllic farming communities and signifying something deeper: neither side is anywhere near securing a decisive military victory.

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