Politics made easy: Whats happening in South Sudan?

South Sudanese refugee girl

About South Sudan 

South Sudan is the worlds newest nation, bordered by six countries, it is located in central Africa. Previously, it had formed part of the country of Sudan however a vote of independence in 2011 saw it become a country in its own right. South Sudan is extremely rich in oil but decades of Civil war have left the country ravaged and underdeveloped and most recently, in the grip of a massive humanitarian crisis.

Why is there a famine? 

South Sudan has long suffered from droughts, poor economic conditions and widespread starvation but it wasn’t until  February of this year that a famine was officially confirmed. With mass violence prevalent throughout the entire country, farmers are unable to plant crops and an estimated 50% of all harvests have been lost. The United Nations believe that there are currently around 5 million people facing the prospects of starvation within South Sudan whilst in the northern part of, 100,00 are facing imminent starvation. This is the first time a famine has been declared anywhere in the world for six years. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the political party that originally led the way for the country’s independence has long since been divided in its fight over power and this has had severe consequences across the whole of South Sudan. With widespread violence, robbing and killing of civilians, many people can no longer afford to buy or harvest food.   

Why did the conflict start?

The civil war in South Sudan was sparked by disagreements between its current president, Salva Kiir Mayardit who is head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its ex-vice-president, Riek Machar after the latter was sacked from his role in 2013 along with other high profile members of cabinet. Mayardit accused Machar on several occasions of attempting to remove him from power (also referred to as a coup). What began as an argument between two political figureheads quickly escalated into a civil war encompassing the entire country. Different ethnic groups began fighting one another to display their support to either President Salva Kiir or Mr Machar and in an attempt to gain power and resources. In 2015 both Mayardit and Machar signed a deal with one another after the UN held an intervention. The deal aimed to end the countries 20-month civil war, bring peace to the nation and prevent mass famine from spreading. A ceasefire was called and a transitional government had to be formed within 90 days. Machar fled South Sudan but retuned to its capital city, Juba in April 2016 in an attempt to become vice-president of the new unity government. Two months after his return and violence and unrest had again spread throughout the country leaving hundreds of people dead and  100,000 more fleeing across the border. Machar was sacked again just months later and returned to exile. On top of this on-going internal conflict, South Sudan still holds many unresolved issues surrounding the north of the country and where its borders lie as well as the status of Abyei, a small town which is extremely rich in oil. Years later the country has been completely torn apart by the civil war, leaving thousands dead and more than 2 million fleeing their homes. 

 

How has the conflict affected the people of South Sudan?

Years of conflict, climate shock and a collapsing economy in South Sudan have left more than 8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, over half of which are children. People have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. Violence throughout the country is widespread and prevalent, with many stories emerging of targeted attacks, gender-based violence, kidnappings and murders. Since the conflict began, almost 1 in 3 people South Sudanese people have been displaced and an estimated 3.4 million citizens have fled to neighbouring countries such as Sudan. It is now the third most-fled country in the world behind Syria and Afghanistan  More than 2.1 million citizens remain trapped in South Sudan, many of which are young children who receive no education and are being forced to become soldiers themselves. Life in South Sudan is unsafe and highly dangerous, this has only been made worse by the increase in prices for basic foods, leaving families unable to eat.

Despite Aid agencies such as UNICEF and OXFAM trying to help the people of South Sudan, it has proven extremely difficult to reach them due to the violence. In the past few months alone there have been numerous assaults on aid conveys, many of which have had their supplies looted by robbers. 

Women and children

What does the future hold for South Sudan?

Sadly the country is still locked in a violent civil war as President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar refuse to back down in their fight for power. Many new new anti-governments groups are forming every day and the fighting is spreading wider throughout the country. Unless malnutrition treatment is scaled up immediately, thousands of people are likely to die. 

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