A Profile of South Sudan

With an increasingly rapid technology-driven news cycle, ongoing worldwide political crises occupy space in the collective consciousness for less and less time, with the exception of a few intermittently covered hot-button issues. Issues receiving particularly minimal attention also tend to be those with little to no relation to Western peoples, which in turn leads to a lack of awareness and aid from Western powers.

The human rights abuses in South Sudan are an ongoing example of this phenomenon; the UN and other international organizations may address them, but the general public of the West has little knowledge of them, despite the fact that there is no indication of the current situation de-escalating.

What is South Sudan?

South Sudan has only legally been an independent state since 2011 and has been undergoing a civil war since 2013, but the state experienced tumult well before its recent de jure status as Sudan was wracked by civil war and its considerable consequences for much of the twentieth century.

The state comprises several Nilotic ethnic groups (many nomadic in lifestyle) which have long experienced ethnically based conflicts, both with each other and within themselves, which some have argued in recent years constitute genocide.

The South Sudanese Civil War

The current civil war broke out after a clash between President Salva Kiir Mayardit (who has been president since the nation gaining independence in 2011) and his former deputy, with both Ugandan forces and UN peacekeepers stepping in to aid the official South Sudanese government in fighting against rebels, which have had their own recurring issues of infighting.

The war has resulted in 383,000 deaths as of September 2018 and the displacement of millions of people. Peace deals have been reached but have done little in practice to halt scorched-earth war crimes, and the UN put out a report in mid-February of 2019 that ‘sexual violence’–mass rape–is on the rise. These abuses are helped in no part by contention over the state’s oil industry. War-worsened hunger and disease have also been major issues in the region.

Little Resolution in Sight

Despite the UN devoting its own mission to the South Sudanese crisis (UNMISS), peacekeeping efforts have generally failed to affect any major change in the situation (a somewhat recurring theme with UN peacekeeping in African conflicts–see Rwanda). The ineffectiveness of the peace deal thus far has already set a precedent for empty peace agreements and the original timeframe for its full implementation has almost elapsed. In order for the situation to improve, effective outside aid with ongoing issues of hunger and restructuring the South Sudanese government will be needed. As for what concerned individuals can do, helping to increase public awareness and non-governmental aid efforts as with other human rights issues would be beneficial.

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