Violence Erupts in South Sudan

According to a recent BBC report, the South Sudanese ceasefire has come to an abrupt end. The violence broke out just two days ago in Malakal, the capital of the Upper Nile State. Both government forces and opposition rebel forces are accusing the other side of instigating the violence.

South Sudan

As the violence is occurring in an oil-producing town, it will likely have a detrimental effect upon the economy and upon civil stability. This violence will likely cause a large amount of people to flee both within South Sudan and to neighboring countries such as Uganda. The refugee camps for Sudanese people in Uganda are already beyond capacity.

The initial conflict began on the 15th of December last year in the town of Malakal, a gateway to the Upper Nile oil fields. Since then, 860,000 people in the region have left their homes. The ceasefire brokered by neighboring East African states on the 23rd of January was in force for less than a month when this violence broke out. The fact that Ugandan troops which have been allied to the South Sudanese government are being withdrawn may further jeopardize the ability of the government to control the region. However, many argue that the government was the first to breach the ceasefire. A rebel spokesman told the BBC that the South Sudanese government backed by Ugandan forces bombed their stronghold first.

With nearly all of South Sudan’s economic output coming from oil, it is easy to see how control of oil producing towns such as Malakal is strategically important. However, it is not just the geo-political crises that should draw the world’s attention but also the humanitarian crisis hidden behind it. It is believed that only 29% of primary aged children are attending school; this is extremely low, even for sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore 28% of children are considered moderately or severely underweight. South Sudan also has the highest maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates in the world as of 2011. Those who flee the country often find themselves in refugee camps where access to health and education are equally stretched.

At RIJ, our mandate is to rebuild the lives of people like this: people who are the innocent victims of conflict and who seek the tools they need to gain dignity, health, safety and empowerment.

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