As one of the world’s newest countries, it appears that the time of celebration for South Sudanese citizens has come to an untimely end, as fears of a full-fledged civil war loom overhead.
More than 1,000 people are believed to have lost their lives as a result of escalating tensions between their President, Salva Kiir and his ousted VP, Riek Machar. The official line is that tribal war threatens to tear the oil rich nation apart – with Kiir hailing from the majority faction, the Dinka and Marchar from the second largest, the Nuer.
The black gold is a significant factor in the brewing friction. Since gaining their independence from Sudan in 2011, the government has been overwhelmingly occupied with figuring out how to export oil. The BBC reported that there have been a few small armed rebellions, border clashes and the like, since their secession. James Copnal from the BBC has stated that the “crisis is essentially a political crisis that has since taken on, in part, an ethnic dimension, and that’s because the politicians have ethnic power bases.”
Both Kiir and Marchar have engaged in political finger pointing with the expelled VP accusing Kiir of weak leadership and an inability to confront corruption. Sudanese President Omar-al Bashir recently visited South Sudan’s capital for peace talks with President Kiir and it’s been reported that China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi aims to speak with both factions to reach a swift end to the aggression. According to the BBC, China is a major investor in South Sudan’s oil industry.
Nearly 200,000 people are believed to have evacuated their homes, fleeing tribal warfare – possibly the beginnings of genocide. Further BBC investigations reveal that the Nuer (Marchar’s bloc) have taken control of the towns of Bor and Bentiu, the capital of the oil-producing Unity State. Moreover the report claims “The country is awash with guns after the decades of conflict and there is a history of tension between rival ethnic groups, which politicians could whip up if they believe that could help them gain, or remain in, power.” Amidst fears of intensification, the UN has allegedly requested reinforcements for the 7,500 troops already on the ground, while stating they will stay the course to protect the lives of the innocent.
Seemingly unproductive East African mediation efforts involving both warring parties have gone down in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. Regarding US intervention The Daily Beast reports “the Obama administration is… warning Machar that the U.S. will look to punish him and his side of the conflict if he marches on Juba [the South Sudanese capital] and takes control of the government by force.” National Security Staff Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden also warned Marchar, “The United States will deny support and work to apply international pressure to any elements that use force to seize power.”
The Beast’s examination of the conflict suggests Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, may be the newly founded country’s last hope for a ceasefire.
“Experts say the only actor who may have influence over Marchar is Omar al-Bashir, the indicted war criminal…President of Sudan and has a long history of making deals with Marchar.”