South Sudan – Working towards peace in Africa’s newest country

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Maya Angelou

The Origins of War

Africa is not one country. In fact, it is extremely diverse, and consists of 54 different countries. In July 2011, it saw birth to a new nation, South Sudan.

At just a few months after its fifth year as an independent nation, South Sudan is now a land plagued by modern-day genocide: genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular group or nation.

The violence is deeply rooted in the differences between feuding ethnic groups, and the unequal distribution of power and wealth in the country. Although fighting has always been present amongst the different factions, violence erupted into a civil war in December 2013, after Dinka President Salva Kiir accused Nuer Vice President Riek Machar, of attempting a coup d’ etat.

The map below shows the current divisions between the various tribes.

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Neighborly Duties

Uganda, which is south of South Sudan, is separated from South Sudan with a mere, 10 foot rickety wooden bridge. It is through this bridge that many civilians are escaping daily massacres.

According to BBC, Uganda is now home to over a million refugees. Other neighboring countries, Sudan and Kenya, have also seen influx of refugees.

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A History of Violence

The current atrocities to humanity are very reminiscent of the war tactics of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

During storm season of 2010, the SPLA set out to disarm the tribe of Shilluk and to stop their rebellion. They burned large numbers of Shilluk villages, raped, tortured, and murdered hundreds of Shilluk civillians. Of the tens of thousands who survived, most were forced to escape to the forests, often injured, and without anything more than what they had on their bodies.

In an interview prior to South Sudan’s independence Shilluk author Peter Adwok Nyaba said, brimming with hope, that if southern Sudan gained independence, the creation of a real democracy was the only hope to rid the country of tribalism and the violence that came with it.

“Tribalism is a very serious problem, but it doesn’t happen because one tribe doesn’t like another. It happens because political and military elites use tribes, rallying and inciting their ethnic communities against each other to build a power base… We have to develop a national political agenda that is inclusive or all,” he said optimistically, “and the solution cannot be driven by the SPLM alone. They will have to share power. If they don’t there will be a big disaster. We have to develop a political class that is not just linked to ethnic and tribal concerns. We have to undertake development and distribute resources fairly so no region feels discriminated against and no tribe feels deprived.”

                                                Peter Adwok Nyaba

In 2010, former United States Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair had warned U.S. Congress, “Looking ahead over the next five years, a number of countries in Africa and Asia are at significant risk for a new outbreak of mass killing… Among these countries, a new mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur in Southern Sudan.”

South Sudan partly owes its independence to America. During President George W. Bush’s presidency in 2000, Sudan was at the top of America’s foreign policy agenda. Jeffrey Gettleman of New York Times wrote, “American government pushed the southern rebels and the central government — both war weary and locked in a military stalemate — to sign a comprehensive peace agreement that guaranteed the southerners the right to secede.”

Why did America not do more to help the new nation ensure that democracy was stable in the new nation? It is true that there are proponents of the “my house, my rules” concept, in which countries should not meddle in one another’s businesses, but when human rights are being violated through rape, torture, and unending violence and terror, do we not have the responsibility to step in, rather than to be mere bystanders? It seems to be, that it should be America’s responsibility to help mobilize aide efforts, especially because it had pushed so hard to help the secession move forward.

A Better Future 

The divides we forge amongst ourselves have time, and time again, resulted in warring factions due to unequal distribution of power and wealth amongst the groups.

As residents in this global playground, we should work together to forge the unity and equality that our brothers and sisters of South Sudan can now only dream of, rather than further deepening the scars formed by ethnic, and racial, divides.

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