South Sudan in Crisis
Since the outbreak of Civil War in 2013, a crisis has been unfolding in South Sudan. Despite a peace treaty in 2015 tensions are still high. Abuses of civilians by government soldiers and the general scale of the conflict have left the country divided and devastated. So far around 3 million people have been displaced, with around half a million people finding shelter in UN compounds and thousands of others in refugee camps.
South Sudan has only existed as a country since 2011 but it has seen its fair share of violence. The conflict began in 2013 when soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and those loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, fought in the capital following months of growing political tensions. The conflict has since changed for a political one to an ethnic one with the tribal divisions being the focus for violence now. As recently as the 10th of April 2017, 16 civilians were murdered by government soldiers and allied militia in retaliation for the death of two high-ranking army officials of the Dinka tribe. The soldiers went from house to house in ethnic Fertit and Luo neighbourhoods on the south-west side of Wau. According to Human Rights Watch these mainly Dinka government soldiers taking revenge on unarmed civilians, primarily based on their ethnicity, has become a predictable trend. The UN peacekeeping troops in the country have reported that their access to areas of violence has been blocked by the South Sudan government.
(A man from the Dinka tribe holds his rifle in front of cows in a Dinka cattle herders’ camp near Rumbek, Capital of the Lakes State in central South Sudan, December 14, 2013. (Photo by Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
These abuses have been happening throughout 2016 and the government has done little to curb these. Following each outbreak of violence in 2016, President Kiir appointed committees to investigate the events. One report from August 2016 found that between June 24th and 25th, over 50 civilians had died, 100 shops had been looted and many people had fled due to violence. No criminal persecutions took place and no further investigations were made. Media in South Sudan reported that two soldiers were executed after facing a military court for taking part in the violence but apart from that nothing has occurred. Similarly, the most recent attacks in April have had an investigatory committee set up but most people doubt anything will come of it.
The crisis has recently been made far worse by the fact that South Sudan is facing a wide-scale famine. A famine was declared this February but the fact that a famine was declared means that people have already died. Currently, there are over 100,000 people facing immediate starvation. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) most recent update, around 5 million people are in urgent need of food and it is almost certainly going to get worse this lean season (summer). Jeremy Hopkins, the UNICEF representative in South Sudan released this statement,
Due to the increasing lack of stability, raiding and looting have increased. As the large majority of people in South Sudan rely on farming (primarily cattle) this has had a much worse knock on effect. Many people’s cattle and farming tools are being stolen often. Young girls are often the ones who suffer most. For men to marry in South Sudan a dowry is needed. Cattle is the only acceptable form of a dowry and this has meant that families who have lost their cattle are often forced to marry off their younger daughters to acquire more cattle. UN figures show that 52% of girls in South Sudan are married by the age of 18 (and nearly one in 10 by the age of 15), but activists say the numbers are rising. For most girls, this marriage means the end of any form of education.
These problems are part of a global series of events which the UN has labelled the worst humanitarian Crisis since 1945. Yet international aid is South Sudan has dropped in recent years. The recent new that Trump plans to cut the aid to international organisations by 44%, humanitarian assistance funding would drop by 31% and global health programmes would be cut by 25%. A former director of foreign disaster assistance at USAID under the Obama administration had this to say,
“This budget would cut nearly 30 million people from food aid rolls even as aid groups struggle to hold off four potential famines. It would undermine refugee aid even as global refugee numbers hit peaks not seen since the second world war and new South Sudanese refugees flee their country by the tens of thousands. And it would obliterate funding for the health, clean water, nutrition, and shelter programmes that keep victims of conflicts and natural disasters alive.”
Now more than ever donates are so important and here are some of the best ways to donate, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), Care, Oxfam, British Red Cross, Cafod, Tearfund, World Vision, WFP, Unicef.
(Christine Elia, 27, holds her twin sons at a displaced persons camp protected by U.N. peacekeepers in Wau, South Sudan, September 4 2016 © Reuters)
‘South Sudan’s Battle for Cattle is forcing schoolgirls to become teenage brides’ The Guardian, Gethin Chamberlain, 2017, Rumbek. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jun/08/south-sudan-battle-for-cattle-is-forcing-schoolgirls-to-become-teenage-brides
‘Famine declared in region of South Sudan – UN’ UN News Centre 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jun/08/south-sudan-battle-for-cattle-is-forcing-schoolgirls-to-become-teenage-brides
‘South Sudan: New Spate of Ethnic Killings’ Human Rights Watch, April 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/14/south-sudan-new-spate-ethnic-killings
‘Trump’s aid budget is breathtakingly cruel – cuts like these will kill people’ Jeremy Konydyk, 2017 The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/may/31/trumps-aid-budget-is-breathtakingly-cruel-cuts-like-these-will-kill-people