South Sudan’s Bittersweet Birthday

south sudan birthday

TGR | 9 July 2015 |

In 2011, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan. A very short two years later tension between now-President Kiir and former Vice President Machar led to open fighting. As South Sudan marks four years as a country, the cause for celebration is overshadowed by violence, hunger, and the many other challenges that still face this very young nation.

Since civil war erupted in 2013 countless thousands of Sudanese have lost their lives and there are a reported 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an additional 730,000 have fled to safety in neighboring countries. Nearly 90 percent of refugees are women and children.

Human Rights Violations

There are human rights violations and mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan including mass rape, torture, child recruitment, disappearances, and murder. These acts are being committed by government forces as well as armed opposition forces. Villages have been looted and burned and sexual violence committed against women and girls is so brutal that they are unable to reach safety.

The UN released findings in June, describing a new level of extreme brutality as it reported South Sudan’s armed forces had gang-raped, tortured, and burned alive dozens of women and girls. In retaliation for the report, South Sudan expelled Mary Cummins, the UN diplomat responsible for the report on human rights violations in the country, as well as Toby Lanzer, the UN humanitarian coordinator.

In addition to the extreme violence, an even greater cause for concern is the severe malnutrition that plagues the citizens of South Sudan as a result of constant conflict. More than two million people face food insecurity of catastrophic proportions.

Economically, the country is struggling. Oil productivity is down to one-third and with no other viable resources; many experts predict that the country is on the verge of collapse.

Conditions Continue to Worsen

While the situation is critical for the South Sudanese people, the country continues to receive other refugees from Sudan. Continuing hostilities, instability, and human rights violations increase the challenges that many humanitarian aid organizations face in offering support to the people of South Sudan.

The disastrous situation in South Sudan is man-made. For things to change in the country, the international community – specifically the UN, the African Union, and other parties, has to demand an end to the impunity that has allowed perpetrators of the violence to not be held accountable. Addressing the core issues at the center of the civil war and dysfunction will make it possible for humanitarian aid to reach those suffering and will be a step forward toward a positive future for South Sudan.

Photo Credit: UN Humanitarian chief visits South Sudan by United Nations Photo – Licensed under CC 2.0