Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a power struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his Nuer ex-deputy Riek Machar. The fear is that the rivalry will spark a widespread ethnic conflict. According to OCHA, 81,000 people have been forced from their homes.

 Let us understand the of Sudan and South Sudan 1st 

===>>>>>>>> Understanding the Ethnic Map of Sudan 

Map of South Sudan highlight five of the central states affected by violence

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.


===>>>>>>>> Politics of Oil 
Map showing the location of oil fields in South Sudan

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north


===>>>>>>>> Geographical Map

Map showing the geography of South Sudan

The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

===>>>>>>>>  Birth of South Sudan

After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.


Why South Sudan has exploded in violence

  • As a poor, landlocked, oil-dependent state with a long history of violent conflict and a belligerent neighbor to the north, South Sudan’s post-independence challenges were always going to be immense. But there was much hope that with wise leadership, prudent policy-making, an inclusive government and generous foreign assistance, South Sudan could leapfrog some of the post-independence crises that plagued other African countries.
The roots of South Sudan's conflict extend back much further than the country's 2011 independence. And, while all internal conflicts are complicated, this one is especially so. But you might say that, in the most general terms, there are three big forces driving the conflict: 

(1) South Sudan is very poor and underdeveloped, and resource scarcity tends to fracture politics and exacerbate ethnic conflict; 

(2) The same forces that helped South Sudan win independence -- militias, strongly felt tribal identities -- also set it up for today's conflict; 

(3) More narrowly, the country's president had fired the vice president, starting a political dispute that may have been the match to South Sudan's tinderbox.

===>>>>>  The country's path to independence was also a path to internal conflict.
  • The decades before South Sudan's independence are complicated but, in the simplest terms, it was defined by a half-century of fighting between the politically dominant, ethnically Arab north and the politically weaker, ethnically sub-Saharan south. Rebel groups in the south wanted more autonomy from the north. They had to fight very hard to get it (although they owe a lot to the north, which behaved so terribly that it galvanized world opinion in favor of the south).
  • The thing, though, is that South Sudan is actually pretty ethnically diverse. South Sudan, like a number of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly this region of it, is articulated by borders that have very little to do with the actual people there. The earlier, unified version of Sudan had been carved out, in part, by European and especially British colonialism. The long-running conflict between the country's north and its south was, like many wars in post-colonial Africa, partly a consequence of European cartographers having forced disparate groups into artificial borders. Splitting Sudan in two helped to ease the tension created by these borders but didn't solve it. The southern ethnic groups had been united by a common enemy -- the north -- but that's no longer bringing them together.
  • The country's demographic composition is just about right for people to divide violently along ethnic lines. The largest group, the Dinka, makes up only about 15 percent of the population. The next-largest, the Nuer, is about 10 percent. There are dozens of other ethnic groups that speak dozens of languages.

===>>>>>  A political rivalry that became ethnic.
  • This is where we get into this week's conflict. The president since independence, Salva Kiir, is ethnic Dinka. His now-former vice president, Riek Machar, is Nuer. But Kiir saw Machar as a rival -- probably with some reason -- and fired him in July.
Salva Kiir

Riek Machar
  • But Kiir and Machar are the two most powerful people from their ethnic groups in a country where ethnic grouping is very important. 
  • So a fight between those two men was bound to exacerbate tension between their respective ethnic groups, which also have lots of other people in positions of power.
  • On Dec. 15, some soldiers loyal to Kiir clashed with soldiers loyal to Machar.
  • Kiir accused Machar of trying to stage a coup, although that's probably not what happened. 
  • Since then, fighting between the respective groups has spread, with forces loyal to Machar now having seized small but significant pieces of territory.


To be clear, there's nothing inherent to the people of South Sudan that makes them any more or less prone to conflict than people from any other countries. But there are certain economic, demographic and political factors that, in any country, make internal conflict more likely. A significant number of those factors are present in the world's youngest country, and to a dangerously high degree. South Sudan is just unlucky.

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