South Sudan, the newest nation in the world, took birth with plenty of hope. Its formation was considered a boon not only for the people of South Sudan who were expected to benefit anyway, but also for Sudan from which it seceded. Such was the bloodshed and devastation which the South Sudan insurgency had caused that there was no second option.
But unfortunately, South Sudan is sinking deeper into chaos, and seems to be trying to join the so-called failed states all over the world. Those responsible for the current chaos are President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar who are wrecking their country in a conflict that has lasted more than 100 days and threatens more severe suffering in the months ahead. Since fighting between these two leaders started in December last year, an estimated one million people have been driven from their homes and about 800,000 of them internally displaced and 200,000 refugees into Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan. It’s unfortunate that the two most prominent leaders of the country had fallen out even before the nation was able to put its house in order and give a sense of nationhood to its people.
Presient Kiir is from the majority Dinka ethnic group and his opponent Machar is from the Nuer group. The fighting is between these two tribes. A ceasefire agreement was signed in January after intense efforts by the African Union and friendly countries, but the conflict has continued in violation of the ceasefire. Both sides are now locked in a civil war that threatens the very existence of the country. The violence has impeded humanitarian work. Deadly diseases like measles, malaria, meningitis and diarrheal illnesses threaten the population and international aid agencies are unable to operate as the lives of their staff are at risk.
There are no signs of any immediate end to the war. According to reports in the international media, the warring groups are now going a step further -– they are said to be mobilizing their forces to capture the oilfields in Paloch which are in operation. Oil is the major and only source of revenue for the government and a fight for its control would push the country into deeper and nearly irreversible chaos. Also, it’s likely to upset Sudan, which has an energy agreement with South Sudan. Though South Sudan produces oil, it has to depend on Khartoum for its transportation because South Sudan is landlocked.
It’s time for the international community, especially the United States, to intervene in South Sudan to avert a human catastrophe and the splintering of the state. The US is preoccupied with a slew of other problems, but that should not be an excuse to turn a blind eye to the suffering of South Sudanese.