Politicians are supposed to be implementing a peace deal in South Sudan's capital city, Juba, which saw bitter rivals join forces in a new unity government a year ago. Five years of the civil war were supposed to be over, costing nearly 400,000 lives. The civil war began in South Sudan in 2013, only two years after the country gained independence from Sudan (North). The current peace agreement is the second between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Vice-President Riek Machar. Agreements continue to fail.
In February 2020, after a decrease in local violence during the civil war, attacks involving hundreds of well-armed young men escalated when Kiir and Machar began sharing power in Juba. Although battles between forces loyal to the two have decreased over the past year, in places like Pibor and Jonglei, the national political settlement has done little to minimize localized violence. For decades, inter-ethnic cattle raiding in the area has been a part of life, but attacks in recent years have become increasingly aggressive as political leaders have channeled weapons to community militias to fight on their behalf. Residents say the devastating impact of a new wave of violence has cost tens of thousands to be displaced, an unknown number of children taken from their parents, and many women sexually assaulted.
Flooding, the worst in decades, has exacerbated the crises.
In Pibor and Jonglei, and other parts of the country, too, crops and cultivated farmland were submerged starting in July 2020, exposing people to malaria, waterborne diseases, and deadly snakebites.
The combination of fighting and flooding has left untold numbers facing extreme famine, and more than 30,000 people are suffering "possible famine" in Jonglei and Pibor alone. In Lekuangole, between February and November 2020, seven mothers reported that 13 of their children starved to death.
While some aid groups have spoken openly about malnutrition conditions, many choose their words carefully in fear of retaliation from South Sudan's government, which has declined to accept the "likely famine" findings.
Meanwhile, in Sudan (North), Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, appointed after a military-civilian power-sharing deal following Omar al-Bashir's overthrow in 2019, dissolved the Cabinet on Sunday and announced ministerial appointments on Monday (Feb. 8th). Handok struggles to ease the economic crisis and bolster the transition to democracy. The reshuffle of Cabinet follows an October peace deal signed with some rebel groups. It aims is to end conflicts in Darfur and lower Sudan, posting the groups within transitional institutions.
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