- Kaikho Osha
South Sudan, the newest formed nation, born out of decades of conflicts, still looks a long way from reconciliation. The conflict that erupted in the middle of December 2013 has escalated into a full-fledged civil war between the government troops and the rebel factions, killing thousands of people and displacing hundreds of thousands. It has forced more than one million people to leave their homes, over 80,000 people to take refuge in various UN camps, set up across the country; and more than 320,000 people to take shelter in the neighbouring countries.(i) The country is torn apart today by civil war.
The Birth of South Sudan
South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in July 2011. Decades before, in 1956 when Sudan was getting ready for independence from joint British and Egyptian rule, South of Sudan prepared to revolt against the new authorities condemning it of betrayal, in creating a federal system, in addition to the attempt of asserting Islamic and Arabic identity. A civil war broke out in 1955 between the south headed by Anya Nya guerrilla movement, and the Sudanese government. The Addis Ababa peace agreement of 1972 put an end to the long-standing conflict and granted the south a measure of autonomy. (ii)
However, as an outcome of the Sudanese government’s withdrawal of the autonomy bargain, the south rebelled again in 1983, led by Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the armed wing, Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The conflict claimed over 1.5 million lives, rendered and more than 4 million people displaced, and sent a, massive exodus of population fleeing to neighbouring counties and northern Sudan. (iii)
It was in 2005 when the conflict ultimately ended with the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which granted South Sudan with regional autonomy and also provided for referendum.(iv)
The overwhelming majority of Southern Sudanese people voted in favour of independence from Sudan in the January 2011 referendum and, accordingly South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011. As the new country celebrated its freedom, the people were unaware that it would soon fall into a power struggle, leaving the country in catastrophe.
Genesis of Current Conflict
On the 15th of December 2013 an intense gunfire battle broke out in the South Sudan’s capital Juba, President SalvaKiir claimed forces devoted to Machar, the ex-vice president, were responsible for the gunfire. Ten people were arrested, together with eight former ministers. But this battle that erupted in the middle of December 2013 soon escalated into a full-fledged civil war. The government troops headed by the PresidentKiir who is also from the Dinka ethnic group, the largest in South Sudan, and the rebel faction headed by DrRiekMachar, who is from the Nuer ethnic community, the second largest ethnic community in Southern Sudan,(v)succumbed into a struggle for power, turning the crisis into an ethnic conflict.
According to the recent report of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) it is estimated that over 323,613 populations of South Sudan have taken refuge in the neighbouringcountries'since December 2013. About 111,058 of the population have taken refuge in the neighbouring countries before the incident of December 2013, bring the total to 434,671, (updated 23rd May 2014) sheltered in the bordering countries Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya. The refugee population comprises 46 per cent of males and 53.4 per cent females.(vi)
The clashes between the two factions have turned the country into a slaughter field, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives. (vii) Of the 900,000 internally displaced South Sudanese, the (UNHCR) stated that since December 2013, more than 80,000 people have taken shelter in various UN camps set up across the country. There are reports that conditions for women are neither safe inside nor outside these camps. Today, more than 4.9 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. The ongoing crisis has forced the International Committee of the Red Cross to commence on its first airdrops of food and supplies aftera gap of two decades. (viii)
There is an alarming food shortage as the fighting has disrupted all forms of commerce. In the WauShiluk Upper Nile State, it is reported that the conditions have deteriorated so much that people are engaged in eating leaves and grass to fill their stomach. (ix)Productionin plantation firms may stop, fishermen no longer feel safe working in the rivers, hordes of domestic animals gone astray. (x)
The absence of food and clean water has led to a spike in case of malnutrition and, it is estimated that over 223,000 children are without food and water. More threatening is the constant threat of outbreak of cholera, in Juba and in different parts of the country, due to the lack of hygienic facilities.(xi)
The 50-nation conference hosted by Norway along with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) resulted in countries making commitments to raise $ 1.2 billion for South Sudan on humanitarian aid, all together 22 countries have given assurance to donate in cash for eg. United States committed $290 million, Britain $101 million, European Union $76 million, Norway $63 million and Qatar $10 million. However, the UN has indicated that more aids would be needed to facilitate food and shelters in the region, estimating over $1.8 billion as a target for humanitarian aid. (xii)
South Sudan is in a desperate need of help today, as the country formed only a couple of years ago, stands plunged into a devastating civil war. The leaders struggling for power would not have foreseen the price they would have to pay for freedom and ironically, lives of the citizen becomes merely an instrument of power in the hands of the leaders. The country cannot handle the shattering impact of the civil war by itself and other countries need to help this conflict torn nation. More nations will have to come forward and contribute. Just as we had welcome South Sudan independence as the newest nation in the world, the nation needs us as it is on the brink of collapse.
i) Oxfam, “Crisis in South Sudan” Accessed on: 20 May 2014, URL: http://www.oxfam.org/en/sudan-southsudan-crisis
ii) “South Sudan profile” BBC, 23 April 2014, Accessed on: 20 May 2014, URL: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14069082
v) Timeline: Fighting in South Sudan” Mail and Guardian, 02 January 2014, Accessed on: 21 May 2014, URL: http://mg.co.za/article/2014-01-02-timeline-fighting-in-south-sudan
vi) UNHCR, “South Sudan Situation” Accessed on: 20 May 2014, URL: https://data.unhcr.org/SouthSudan/regional.php
vii) UNHCR, “More than 11,000 South Sudanese flee to Ethiopia after fall of rebel-held town” UNHCR, 6 May 2014 Accessed on: 20 May 2014, URL: http://www.unhcr.org/5368b02d9.html
viii) “South Sudan in Peril” The New York Times, 17 May 2014, Accessed on: 21 May 2014, URL: www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/opinion/sunday/south-sudan-in-peril.html
ix) Kushkush, Isma’il, “Food crisis Worsens in South Sudan as Civil War is Displacing Millions” The New York Times, 19 May 2014, Accessed on: 21 May 2014, URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/world/africa/food-crisis-worsens-in-south-sudan-as-civil-war-is-displacing-millions.html?_r=0
xii) Lewis, Mark, “Nations Double South Sudan Refugee Aid to $1.2 Billion” abc News, 20 May 2014, Accessed on: 21 May 2014, URL: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/nations-double-south-sudan-refugee-aid-12-bln-23795506