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New Fighting in South Sudan

Displaced girl by fence inside UN base

In the past fortnight, fighting has broken out again in Malakal. Malakal, in the early months of the civil war, was devastated by alternate waves of rebel and government troops. For most of 2015, however, Malakal has been under government control. The population, however, has continued to be largely dispersed to the surrounding villages or under UN protection in the log base just outside of the town. This new Malakal fighting does not involve rebels but is between factions of the Government troops. Once again the people had to flee, not from rebels but from rival factions in the Government army!

Meanwhile, the costs of imported commodities have been increasing rapidly as the South Sudan Pound loses value against the Dollar. Since most of the food and other goods sold in South Sudan came from neighbouring countries, the economic impact of the war is now being felt by everyone. It is a senseless and stupid situation, the consequence of a view of man so contrasting to that described in Hamlet’s monologue. Human life is undervalued by too many in South Sudan. We must work to build a vision based on the dignity of human beings, ‘paragons’ created in the likeness of God. This is the key to establishing a lasting peace and prosperous society in South Sudan. It can be done. It must be done.

The people of South Sudan endured just over 40 years of war before the Comprehensive Peace agreement was reached in 2005, followed by independence in 2011. The people were optimistic for a prosperous future. They had united and fought hard to achieve freedom from the regime in the north that was seeking to bring them under Islamic Rule. Yet in late 2013, fighting broke out between political rivals that opened up ethnic divisions with reprehensible brutality. Many innocent people were slaughtered or displaced from their homes. There was no noble reason for this new fighting in South Sudan – just a loss of reason by men in power and in arms. There was no delight, nothing beautiful or admirable as tens of thousands were killed. During 2014, talks were held in Addis Ababa and peace agreements were signed only to be largely ignored by the Generals (really leaders of militias) in the fields of battle. The wet season, however, dampened hostilities by the middle of 2014 and a stand-off between Government and rebel troops developed without an effective peace agreement, and still with occasional, deadly, local battles.

In 2015, there has been less fighting but the divisions and self-interest have become even more evident. Some of the generals initiated compulsory conscription from among their own people of young men and boys and, in some reported instances, even women and girls.  South Sudanese families who normally show a great ability to live together in peace, trust and harmony, were now being torn apart by the soldiers on their own side of the ethnically based conflict. Those who were supposedly protecting their own tribe were now destroying it. So much for nobility and sound reason!

 

–  Br Bill