Making Sense of South Sudan

As I learn more about the shattering atrocities of Sudan and South Sudan, I find myself becoming more upset, confused, and angry. I still struggle with understanding the complex history and dimensions of atrocities and why they occur in the first place.

After the civil war between North and South Sudan, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan.  A landslide vote in favor of secession led to the creation of the world’s newest country, South Sudan.  But they were also left with intense internal political struggles, economic failure, and security challenges that continues to create violence in all corners of the country. President Salva Kiir, who is ethnically Nuer, dismissed his entire cabinet on July 23, 2013 as a result of charges of intense corruption within the government. He fired the vice president, Riek Machar, who is ethnically Dinka, and now the government is moving towards a dictatorship with Kiir at the helm. Gross violence between the government’s guard, loyal to Kiir, and the army, loyal to Machar, in the capital city of Juba in 2013. This fighting was the head of the tension, and since then the violence has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people and displaced 2 million.

When someone thinks of violence in African countries, the image of militant rebel groups committing atrocities against innocent civilians comes to mind. While this image is true (the LRA, SPLM, and more continue to wage violence against civilians), the government of South Sudan perpepuates many crimes against humanity. Arbitrary detention and attacks on journalists and other civilians constantly occur, and people are caught in the cross fire of warring ethnicities and loyalties. The typical American schema of war that comes to mind is “good vs. bad” or “X religion vs. Y religion”. I think the complex layers of corruption that rip at Sudan had me so upset that there is no easy fix or simple approach to dealing with the atrocities that people face as a result of all these groups all pointing guns at each other.

United to End Genocide has created a short list of things the international community can actually do to intervene in the situation. The first is to demand humanitarian access. In many cases, governments resist the UN and prevent peacekeepers from entering, or fail to adhere to peace agreements, leaving populations at risk to die. These populations have very few options if their family has faced murder, torture, rape, or abduction. They cannot continue to make their own living when their homes and farms are taken away from them. International sources can also use targeted sanctions in order to hold individuals who resist humanitarian access and individuals who have perpetuated war crimes accountable. The need for mechanisms that ensure proper justice and accountability is so key in creating change for South Sudan.

Sudan has been broken and battered from all sides, from the 22 year civil war, to governmental corruption and ethnic discrimination between tribes, to warring militias. I still struggle with understanding its complex history with my current frame of reference. I know that the violence of South Sudan will never make sense to me, no matter how many accounts I read or history lessons I get. I am blown away by the lack of personal emotion of those who can commit these types of crimes against children and innocent people. But I also know that now that as I am learning about the plight of Sudan (and other at risk countries) it is always on my mind. The overarching thought over all the violence and death though, is what I actually do?

Jen

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