South Sudan: What’s Going On

I don’t think we ever intend to diminish or dilute the severity of genocide; however, it sure seems to come across that way when we take specific genocides and boil them down to short paragraphs, bullet points, and statistics. I hate to “simplify” such a non-simple matter because genocide isn’t just words you read on a screen, it is the reality for millions. There are real people involved. Real people oppressed by injustice. Right now. With all the news articles and posts flying around we can even look at South Sudan as “just another devastation” and it is that mindset that has made us numb to violence and pain. So, upfront I just want you as the reader to take this all in, not as words on your screen, but as if it were real – because it is.

South Sudan: The Breakdown

It’s complicated. And to get the full rundown we would have to start decades and decades ago to know the complete history of ethnic and political struggles in the country of Sudan. Because of the complex history, we are going to focus in on when South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 as it broke away from Sudan. What should have finally been a time of rejoicing and peace has since turned into genocide and a terribly huge humanitarian crisis. The celebration was short lived when on December 15, 2013 ethnic/political fighting broke out.

Since gaining independence it has been difficult for the country’s ethnic groups to play nice. There are two main ethnic groups in South Sudan: Dinka and Nuer. They aren’t fans of one another in the least bit and things get even sticker when you find out that the South Sudanese Pres. Salva Kiir is Dinka and the former VP Riek Machar is Nuer. Because of their respective ethnic groups these two were more rivals than they were partners when both were in office together. In early 2013 Kiir felt threatened by Machar and took away his executive power at Vice Pres. What stirred up these fights in December of 2013 were claims by the government of South Sudan that Riek Macher was planning a coup to overthrow Salva Kiir. Machar denied this and argued that Kiir was trying to squash political opposition. Machar quickly escaped Juba (aka capital of South Sudan) and began to mobilize support. Rapidly this violence and conflict spread throughout the entire country and escalated to a tragic and deadly civil war. It is the South Sudanese government and military (dominated by the Pres and Dinka ethnic group) up against the rebel groups (allies with ex-Vice Pres and Nuer ethnic group).

Humanitarian Crisis and Refugee Camps

There has been destruction of property, mass killing, rape, sexual violence, and recruitment of child soldiers, among many other catastrophes. The country is in need of critical assistance; however, the government of South Sudan has limited the humanitarian activities throughout the country. Malnutrition, hunger, and severe poverty are widespread. 1 in 5 people are displaced in South Sudan. Over 2.3 million have been forced to flee their homes and more than 770,000 have escaped to neighboring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

We can’t ignore this tragedy any longer. We can’t put off taking action for another day when each moment matters. I urge you to continue to stay informed. Learn more about the history of Sudan and raise awareness so we can put an end to this massive crisis.

-Riley Loftus


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