Subscribe to the Real Truth for FREE news and analysis.Subscribe Now
South Sudan fought for decades before breaking away from Sudan, but now the fledgling country’s future is hostage to political infighting and ethnic clashes.
The Associated Press reported: “Some 58,000 people have taken refuge in and around [United Nations] bases in the country and more than 92,000 have fled their homes as a result of fighting that has raised fears of a civil war in the country, according to the United Nations.”
Toby Lanzer, a UN humanitarian official, believes the death toll has surpassed 1,000. He described the situation on the PBS program “NewsHour”: “There was a lot of looting, a lot of gunshots, a lot of dead bodies, and very, very out-of-control youth heavily armed. And that needs to be brought under control.”
The UN Security Council has since authorized the increase of its peacekeeping force from 7,000 to 12,500. It also upped the police contingent from 900 to 1,323, the Guardian reported.
“The revolt, which began [December 15], has spread rapidly to half of the country’s 10 states and to more than 20 cities and towns nationwide. Heavy fighting between government forces and rebels continued in South Sudan…particularly in the strategic city of Malakal,” according to The New York Times.
At the center of the conflict are “two war heroes who made their names fighting their mutual enemy, Sudan, [who are] now fighting each other in what has been described as politics gone wild,” reported NPR. President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar, whom he dismissed in July, of plotting a coup. Mr. Machar denied this claim.
“There was no coup. It was a sheer lie, fabrication,” Mr. Machar told CNN. “There is an uprising in South Sudan, as you well know. The people are uprising. It is because of the security forces that are stamping down on the popular feeling of people. The people of South Sudan are fed up with what Salva Kiir has been doing all this time.”
The power struggle between the two political rivals has morphed into ethnic clashes between the Dinka and the Nuer, the two largest ethnic groups in the country. President Kiir is a member of the Dinka tribe and Mr. Machar is a member of the Nuer tribe.
Diplomats from neighboring African nations, Europe and the United States have called for an end to the violence before it escalates into a civil war. The New York Times reported that “President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia flew on to the South Sudanese capital, Juba, for a closed-door discussion with Mr. Kiir.”
South Sudan is the world’s newest and most underdeveloped nation, despite its rich oil reserves. It gained its independence in 2011 when its population overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan, according to the BBC.