Post-independent South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, is currently in the midst of an increasingly violent power struggle between current president Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar. In spite of the cease-fire agreement last month, fighting has continued to bring turmoil and regional instability to the nation.
The fighting began on December 15 of last year when a clash broke out at military barracks within the nation’s capital, Juba. President Kiir accused Machar of staging a coup attempt which he subsequently denied, but not before his loyal forces took up arms against the government.
Since then, South Sudan has been ravaged by violence and warfare between the government militia and the rebel forces. Thousands of innocent civilians have perished as a result and many more have been forced from their homes.
Nearly 900,000 civilians have been displaced, with 724,000 still within South Sudanese borders. About 145,000 have fled to the neighboring countries of Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia to seek refuge.
Thousands of humanitarian aid workers have also been caught in the crossfire, forced to seek refuge in the bush to escape the violence. Many have been severely restricted in their work and unable to reach isolated communities, due to the ongoing conflict.
The upcoming rainy season will only pose more problems for the country, as millions could go hungry if the fields remain unplowed. There is also growing concern that the makeshift civilian sites could become breeding grounds for disease outbreaks and epidemics.
Currently, the mediation process is being lead by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), but peace talks remain stalled. International key players including the U.S., U.K. and Norway have also spoken out. Secretary of State John Kerry recently spoke on the phone with both President Kiir and Mr. Machar, hoping to find a solution to the problem.
He noted, “We also feel deeply committed, given past lessons, to try to prevent the chaos and the genocide that too often comes of the violence that can occur if things break down. We don’t want this to cascade into a more violent repetition of the past.”
Negotiators for the warring parties have shown little interest in reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict and continue to violate the cease-fire.
Due to this, the UN has recently warned over 100,000 South Sudanese civilians who have fled to neighboring countries against returning, claiming that the country is still too unsafe.
– Mollie O’Brien