The return of civil war in Sudan’s fifth year anniversary

11 July 2016

Last year the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, celebrated its 4th anniversary since its independence in July 2011. However, this year there will be no 5th anniversary celebration, because the country is facing a severe economic crisis and the government cannot afford the celebration costs.

According to the Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, the celebration would total around 10 million South Sudanese Pounds ($450,000), money which the government simply does not have. Even if they could cover the costs, investment in the local economy is far more urgently required, particularly in the payment of outstanding salaries. Alongside these economic difficulties ethnic violence erupts again in South Sudan. Fighting between the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) and SPLA-IO (South Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition) spread since last Thursday, throwing South Sudan once again to the brink of civil war. HART is deeply worried about these current developments.  Our local partners need urgent support to help those most affected by the violence and conflict.

As well as this, through the violent years of civil war, the resource-rich country has lacked the infrastructure and industry to maximise on its own natural resources. While the difficult economic situation hinders any war to peace transition, the renewed fighting and strategically targeting of civilians particularly compromise any emerging reconciliation processes. After three years of devastating civil war that killed an estimated 50-100,000 people, and displayed further two million a peace agreement was signed on the 26th of August last year between rebel leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir. This agreement formally ended the civil war. When HART visited the country in 2016 we witnessed a devastating humanitarian situation but could also see some signs of positive change (read our full Sudan/South Sudan report here). Now, with the return of ethnic violence it seems that the peace agreement is about to collapse.

The situation in South Sudan deteriorated rapidly since February, first in the region of Wau, causing instability and insecurity for many civilians. Since the 24th of June, ethnically targeted violence reached new levels. Dozens have been killed and more than 120,000 displaced. While the UN Security Council has condemned the violence in Wau and called for the government of South Sudan to immediately prosecute those responsible, the fighting continues with horrifying consequences. Members of MSF (Medical Sans Frontiers) who were delivering first aid to those who are affected are shocked by the worsening health conditions and living standards of most civilians. People are suffering skin infections and diarrhoea due to the harsh environment where they seek safety. While some groups have managed to shelter in churches and schools, many are forced to sleep outside, either next to buildings or in forests. Furthermore, since there is a lack of mosquito nets, malaria cases are on the rise. In addition to the high number of physical injuries, many civilians are psychologically affected by traumatic experiences.

Unfortunately, the violence in Wau seems now to be only the beginning of a return to ethnic violence. Over the weekend the fighting between SPLA and SPLA-IO members escalated in Juba, particularly in the Guedele and Jebel suburbs leaving hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Furthermore, a UN camp for internally displaced people close to Juba in which thousands had been housed has been shelled leaving several people dead and wounded. It is especially alarming that the Vice President Riek Machar puts the responsibility for the ongoing violence to President Salva Kiir. There are concerns that the period of the Transitional Government of National Unity is about to end.

HART is deeply worried about the current situation in South Sudan and especially the recent   violence in the city of Wau and Juba. HART especially condemns the intentional targeting and victimisation of civilians. To ensure the safety and dignity of civilians all factions must immediately stop the on-going fighting. Rather than blaming each other, Riek Machar and Salva Kiir must now demonstrate South Sudan’s national unity and control their loyal forces to stop the escalating conflict. To help South Sudan on its difficult road to peace and make next year’s birthday more worth celebrating for the world’s youngest nation our local partners need your support. HART works closely with local actors who are focusing on education, health care and emergency relief work especially in the regions now affected by violence. If you are interested in the work we are doing and who our partners are, have a look here.

Disclaimer: This blog is a space for discussion and personal reflection. Any opinions expressed within the blog are those of the author and are not necessarily held by HART. Individual authors are responsible for the accuracy of statements made within the blog.

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