It is interesting how there are certain moments in time where we can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. Oddly enough, one of those times for me was when the civil war in South Sudan began. My father works for a large company that has an office in South Sudan, so even before it had hit the news outlets, he got a phone call at 11:00 at night (and of course being the nosey daughter that I am I had to listen in) alerting him to the eruption of violence within the country. I picked up words like “shift”, “tribe” and “coup”, but did not connect all the dots until much later. My father’s headache lasted about a week as he struggled to find safe ways to get his colleagues safely out of the country, but those who remain in South Sudan continue to live in a constant state of chaos and violence.
As a nation that only gained its independence four years ago, it is understandable that there would be instability and difficulties for South Sudan to become an established state. Not to mention that the country that they separated from is one of the most volatile in the world, and that they were not pleased with the severance. Since December 15, 2013, South Sudan has been plagued by internal violence, rebel and militia group conflict, and conflict with Sudan. The President, Salva Kiir, was overthrown by the supporters of the ex-Vice President, Riek Machar. The two leaders are from different ethnic tribes, Kiir from the Nuer tribe and Machar from the Dinka tribe. Kiir had fired Machar earlier that year, and many think that he did so only because Machar was Dinka. When it was formed, the South Sudanese government decided to have persons from many tribes in power to make sure that each tribes voice was heard, however, it seems that their differences overcame their efforts for inclusion.
The ethnic division has also divided the army and rebel groups, who have both become engaged in this civil war. Both sides have reportedly committed mass atrocities, targeted civilians based on ethnicity, sexual violence, and the conscription of child soldiers. It is reported that more than 12,000 children have been forced to be soldiers in this civil war. Around 2 million have been displaced since the conflict began, with a large portion being children. Famine is also a major problem in South Sudan because access to crops has been blocked due to the insecurity. There have been UN peacekeepers sent in to monitor the situation, but they too have been attacked. The issues remaining that are fueling the animosity are the statues of the Abyei region, the borders, issues with regions still part of Sudan, and the sharing of oil wealth. These issues are deep rooted and do not show any promise of being resolved soon.
What sets this conflict apart is the fact that there has been a large amount of international attention directed toward solving the issues plaguing South Sudan. The United Nations has been very involved, as well as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. Major outside powers such as the United States and China have even helped to facilitate peace talks. Unfortunately, it seems that neither side is willing to commit to a lasting solution. The deadline for ceasefires continues to be pushed back as both sides are constantly breaking agreements. What exists in South Sudan is an absence of desire for a lasting solution. Yet, the international community cannot give up hope for this new nation. The efforts to aid South Sudan must be amplified immensely, and the sanctions need to be made more serious. As witnesses to these atrocities, we cannot allow what is happening to be swept under the rug. The United Nations has said human rights violations are evident and present, so what more proof do we need that South Sudan needs our help? The newest deadline has been set for March 5, 2015, and it is the hope that it is one that will produce a peaceful solution. The global community needs to embrace South Sudan and stop it’s internal destruction and relieve those who want nothing more than to feel safe again.