Today is the 5th anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. As the country is recovering from a devastating civil war and continues to suffer from rampant inflation, the government had previously announced that it would cancel independence celebrations. Instead, the two days preceding the holiday, South Sudan instead marked the occasion by having government and opposition forces exchange fire in separate incidents on Thursday and Friday. Fortunately, during the more serious incident on Friday, President Salva Kiir and his vice presidents Riek Machar and James Wani Igga were together to discuss Thursday’s incident and jointly appealed for calm. This was a stark contrast to the rhetoric following the December 2013 clashes, which I’ve long believed helped fuel the expansion of the conflict…so some progress here. Right?
As my way of commemorating South Sudan’s birthday, I present you with some helpful articles to help understand the current political/humanitarian situation there:
The Independence Day that Nobody’s Celebrating by Jason Patinkin: Good synopsis of the multi-faceted challenges facing South Sudan’s transitional government as it attempts to pull itself together after the civil war.
South Sudan: Five Years Later by Lauren Hutton: A well-thought out perspective on the aspirations the donor community had for South Sudan, with relevance to other contemporary cases of state building.
Why elections may be the only answer for South Sudan by Peter Biar Ajak: Food for thought on why the peace agreement signed in August will not be implemented under the current leadership, and on how elections may be the best way to avoid complete state failure.
South Sudan: Devastating impact of war on mental health must be addressed by Amnesty International: On the near-total absence of mental health services to address trauma suffered during years of conflict.
On my About Me page, I alluded to the possibility of writing about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following is a story about my attempt to bridge the gap between my previous work on conflict and my expanded portfolio, which sometimes includes health:
Guide: South Africa’s health facilities are among the best on the continent. Many people come here for medical treatment.
Lesley: Yes, I understand South Sudanese warlords come here for treatment.
Guide: (Awkward silence)
Lesley: (Makes mental note to draft better small talk points and practice with close friends. Or avoid social interactions altogether.)
Originally published by Security Sector Reform Resource Centre on August 18, 2015)
In December 2013, South Sudan’s military integration process faced its most serious challenge, as a political crisis that had been developing throughout the year within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) suddenly escalated, dragging the country into civil war. Within days, Nuer elements of Division 8 in Jonglei state, Division 4 in Unity state, and Division 7 in southern Upper Nile state had defected from the military and formed an armed opposition. These units had been comprised of armed groups that had fought the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005), but had since been integrated into the South Sudanese military. By February 2014, South Sudan’s parliament estimated that up to 70% of the SPLA had defected to the opposition.
The fragmentation of the SPLA certainly escalated the rate at which the political dispute metastasized into the civil war it is at present. However, the fighting that erupted between Dinka and Nuer members of the Presidential Guard and quickly spread to SPLA Headquarters at Bilpam in mid-December 2013 was a reaction to a political trigger. Consequently, beyond simple correlation, there is no evidence of a causal relationship between the government’s decision to integrate armed groups into the SPLA and the political crisis that led to the outbreak of conflict. Rather, a poorly managed, open-ended integration process and the failure of rightsizing initiatives left the SPLA in a state of arrested development, forestalling efforts to professionalize the military from gaining traction, and making the force more likely to fragment along factional lines during periods of heightened political competition.
(Read the rest of the post here.)
(Originally published in The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog on February 5, 2015)
Since the beginning of the year, two developments have revived hope that South Sudan’s civil war, which began in December 2013, may soon come to an end. First, the country’s main political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), whose split precipitated the conflict, announced its reunification during an Intra-SPLM Dialogue hosted in Tanzania. President Salva Kiir and his former vice president and current leader of the SPLM/A-in-Opposition then signed anAgreement on the Establishment of a Transitional Government of National Unity at the mediations sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). While both of these processes are necessary to address SPLM party governance and possible power-sharing arrangements, they are not yet sufficient enough to make the signing of a final peace agreement a foregone conclusion.
(Read the rest of the article on The Monkey Cage Blog website)
First of all, let me confess that I’m an idiot. I arrived in Juba a few days ago, and today, 15 December, is the one year anniversary of the start of South Sudan’s civil war. I’ve been asked if I did this on purpose, and told that I was traveling in the absolutely wrong direction. But I needed data to complete my summer research on the disintegration of the military integration process and this is the week I was able to travel. Alas…
National Courier has a good synopsis of the first week of what’s still called the “December Crisis” – even though it quickly spiraled into a civil war that engulfed much of the country.
Agence France-Presse captured the impact of the war in South Sudan: A Year of War, in Numbers, with figures such as:
– Est. 50K dead (although no official death toll kept)
– 50% of population in need (2M homeless, +6M in need of aid)
– Over 610K refugees, mostly hosted by Ethiopia, followed by Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya
– 12K forcibly-recruited child soldiers and 400K forced to quit school so facilities can be used as barracks
– 100K civilians sheltering in UN camps
– Over $20M spent on first 6mos of peace talks (in luxury hotels in Addis)
– Over $38M spent on arms
– Five different deals and cessations of hostilities that have collapsed within days
– Three leaders sanctioned by EU and US (rebel chief Peter Gadet, and army commanders Santino Deng and Marial Chanuong)
Last but not least, a small group of civil society volunteers have been collecting information on those who have perished in the war since the conflict began a year ago in “Naming the Ones We Lost” – South Sudan Conflict from Dec 15, 2013 to present day.” If the 50K estimate of war casualties is accurate, this list accounts for only 1% of those who have perished.
On that depressing note, the city is quiet for now – let us hope it remains so. Sadly, I can’t say the same for some of the areas in Upper Nile or Lakes – or considering rumors of rebellion brewing in the Equatorias.