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Friday, July 3, 2015

South Sudan Crisis ..... thousands die in civil war ...

In July 2011 was born a new country –  forthose people of Juba and areas surrounding it,  9th July 2011 was to be a historic date.  For the newly born Republic of South Sudan, Juba became the Capital.  The birth of the newest of the Nations arose out of a referendum  heldthat year  to determine if South Sudan should declare its independence from Sudan. 98.83% of the population voted for independence.  Those living in the north and expatriates living overseas also voted.  South Sudan became the 193rd country recognised by the UN and the 54th UN member state in Africa.

Things are not good for the infant Nation.  Last month, the Govt declared cholera outbreak in the capital city, where at least 18 people died and 171 cases were confirmed.  The Govt, Ministry of Health and the handful of Doctors are struggling to attend to the ailing but there is more trouble.  South Sudan is engulfed in a conflict that seems to have defied all attempts to resolve it peacefully. The conflict is now about 18 months old and despite every effort made to try to end it, South Sudanese are still to enjoy peace and stability after having shed millions of litres of their own precious blood to achieve independence from vicious colonizers.The conflict is a  concern of Africa in particular and the international community at large.  It is evident that South Sudanese on their own have no power to end the conflict because they find it easier to disagree than agree.

The city of Malakal located on the banks of the White Nile, just north of its confluence with the Sobat River is a warzone.  The Battle of Malakaloccurred at the end of Nov 2006 when clashes between Sudanese government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army were the most serious breach of a 2005 deal to end the Second Sudanese Civil War.  The trouble appears far from over.  South Sudan’s army battled to regain control of the oil town of Malakal a day after rebels launched an attack that forced some army units and hundreds of people to flee the strategic crude hub.Gunfire and heavy explosions rang out inside Malakal as troops clashed with fighters loyal to former Vice President RiekMachar for the control of the town.  The clashes are the heaviest since the government launched a major offensive against rebels three weeks ago, according to government and aid officials, spotlighting the worsening violence. More than 50,000 people have died in the conflict, and nearly two million others remain displaced.

The rebels attacked the town from three different directions late Friday, forcing hundreds of residents to flee, according to aid officials. Earlier, the United Nations and several aid agencies evacuated staff from South Sudan’s Unity state following weeks of intense fighting, leaving up to 300,000 without access to aid, including food.Malakal has changed hands between government and rebel fighters several times since the conflict erupted in December 2013, triggered by a dispute between President SalvaKiir and his former deputy, Mr.Machar. The town has been under government control since March 2014.

Oil regions have seen the heaviest combat since the conflict started, as fighters battle for the control of vital crude fields. Oil production has since slumped by a third to 160,000 barrels a day, leaving South Sudan’s capital of Juba struggling for revenue to finance food and other vital imports.Failure of efforts to achieve a political settlement has made it more likely that the two sides would each seek a military conclusion to the war.   According to NY Times, in places where the fighting is fiercest, no one is even attempting to count the dead.

Nearly half the population of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, is in danger of going hungry. New atrocities are reported almost every day. And more than 1.5 million people have fled their homes, the vast majority to swampland villages where they hope rising waters during the rainy season will keep them safe from marauding soldiers.  According to some of its residents, there is no more country as despite repeated attempts at peace, some of the deadliest fighting of the civil war has erupted in the last few months.The warring leaders are unflinchingly entrenched in their positions, and the kinds of abuses that shocked the world early in the conflict, including the use of child soldiers and deliberate attacks on civilians, are reoccurring with new ferocity.

Even the spokesman for the military, the South Sudanese Liberation Army, acknowledged that the conflict was pointless.“This is a senseless war,” said the spokesman. CholGarkouth, 15, can barely remember how his family celebrated his country’s independence from Sudan four years ago. He does not know about the support the United States gave to South Sudan’s creation, the eight peace deals that have collapsed since his fledgling nation quickly spiralled into civil war, or even much about the politics fuelling the fire.But he knows why he picked up a gun.“All the other boys my age were going to fight,” Chol, 15, said from his hospital bed, bleary-eyed, a bullet wound in his leg. “I wanted to go fight with them.”

Many observers argue that the humanitarian crisis seems to get worse by the day.The country’s economy is in free fall, and the cost of food, gas and other essentials has skyrocketed.By April, 3.8 million people did not have enough food. Within a month, that number had grown by nearly a million.So many people are seeking refuge that in one village north of the city of Malakal, WauShilluk, the population has exploded to more than 39,000 from 3,000. For more than a month, no aid could get there because of the fighting, and children described going as many as five days without a meal.International aid groups had to cancel repeated trips last week because of shelling and clashes. Finally, aid workers went despite the risks, but on the way back gunmen shot at one of the boats — though it was clearly marked with an aid group’s flag — forcing workers to dive for cover and speed back to port.

United Nations officials say they face an impossible choice: open their doors to the desperate, or let people die.This is a far cry from what international officials envisioned when the decades of war between northern and southern Sudan ended and a peace treaty was reached in 2005, paving the way for independence from Sudan.  In 2011, the Nation was born, the leaders of the new nation’s two largest ethnic groups — the Dinka and the Nuer — joined in forming a government.  In Dec 2013, President SalvaKiir, a Dinka, accused his former vice president, RiekMachar, a Nuer, of plotting a coup. The two had a history of hostility dating back decades, and their personal political struggle quickly swallowed the country, setting off a new round of violence.The fighting spread from the capital and has been most intense in two regions where there are oil fields.For Mr.Kiir and Mr.Machar, it is not just territory that they are trying to control. They need alliances with the nation’s many other ethnic groups.

War kills, maims and tortures people.  It is stated there is no count, for one cannot count the numbers when the war is on.   For more than 17 months, women, men and children have been senselessly suffering through an entirely man-made catastrophe with no immediate end in sight.  The parties know that they cannot conclude, but are trying to secure as strong a position as possible before the rainy season comes and the fighting stops.

Sad, people do not know to co-exist and live peacefully.
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

24th June 2015.

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