Our Newest Nation: South Sudan Must Bridge the Ethnic Divide

Our Newest Nation: South Sudan Must Bridge the Ethnic Divide
South Sudan in green, previously part of Sudan. courtesy of Wikipedia
South Sudan in green, previously part of Sudan. courtesy of Wikipedia

Only two years after it became independent from Sudan, South Sudan was plunged into a civil war in December 2013. In the two years that the South Sudan crisis has been raging, ceasefires have been declared. But the conflict is characterized by a culture of revenge, and retaliation between the government and rebel groups nulls all attempts at conciliation [1].

The conflict began a power struggle between the ethnically elite and continues to be characterized by ethnic divide. The current president Mr. Kiir is Dinka, the majority ethnic group in South Sudan. Kiir is a military man, and South Sudan is a militaristic society. Mr. Machar, the man Kiir accused of staging a coup, has gathered significant support from a rag-tag team of militias and other groups that split from the national military. Machar is Nuer. Both groups have tended towards violence instead of political settlement [2].

This October, famine warnings have flared up in South Sudan. Humanitarian agencies find a hard time getting basic necessities to civilians in the crossfires of conflict. The most recent efforts to stop civil war have been in August, with President Kiir signing off on an agreement to share power with Mr. Machar. Compromises were made on all sides. The level of dissatisfaction rippling through both government and opposition forces points this ceasefire towards failure, like many of its predecessors [3].

For example, Uganda, which supports Kiir’s elitist forces, has already violated the treaty by neglecting to remove its troops from South Sudan. The treaty bars neighboring countries from intervening and perpetuating conflict. Sudan must also stop supplying opposition forces with troops and weaponry [4].

The treaty truly downplays the depth of ethnic divide that plagues South Sudan. All international forces agree that partition is not the right route to go. (Finally! Human progress. We learned from our mistakes in Israel, India-Pakistan–the list goes on)  But the inherent animosity between Dinka and Nuers, and the tenacity of the power-hungry elite, makes cooperation seem impossible. Yet, South Sudan is not the first of emerging countries to find itself strife-stricken. It also would not be the first to achieve eventual conflict resolution [5].

 

by Allison Huang ’17