The War They Call Peace: South Sudan's civil war

MERCY PARTNERS © Peter Caton for Action Against Hunger, South Sudan.

Ten years ago, on July 9, 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after 50 years of surviving the civil war. With only two years of independence, the new country crumbled into a bloody war of its own. The current peace agreement is one of many between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Vice-President Riek Machar. The full-scale war generated some of the worst war crimes outlined by the Geneva Conventions. Rape, mutilation, and child soldier recruitment are committed regularly throughout a series of wars since their independence. South Sudan remains in ruins as the seven-year civil war rages on despite peace deals inked by warring parties. Fighting between communities, as well as government human rights abuses, rage on.

False Notions

Hostilities are now depoliticized by international groups as disarmament campaigns or else dismissed as ethnic violence. Many have clung to a narrative that the peace agreement is being upheld. But the level of violence in the country has increased since 2018. It has been suggested that the very government that is both divided and refuses accountability should police the inter-ethnic conflict as though the conflict is merely a regrettable circumstance of grudges.

The undertow is pulling peace down

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. In addition, a conflict in Central Equatoria between government forces and the armed opposition group has included many attacks on civilian populations.

A crackdown on media resulted in the security forces attacking and detaining journalists. In August 2020, soldiers and police shot at protestors marching against the slaughter of civilians in the Juba community of Sherikat (Cher-Ah-cot).

South Sudanese national politicians who scar their own country in violence remain unchecked by international players because of international interests. The international community and dignitaries who visited Juba to celebrate the 10th Independence Day on July 9, 2021, congratulate themselves on creating the world's newest state, despite having little to do with its development. Humanitarian aid goes corrupt, developmental funds and humanitarian aid organizations go unchecked. Little to zero accountability exists. Money disappears. You can't find a sewer that's been constructed. Health clinics are either scarce or bare. Few schools exist from government funding, and those that do exist have been shelled out. Many of the states report that there are no roads, no markets, and no institutions.

While the war has taken nearly 400,000 lives, floods and famine have claimed many more. As a result, the death toll is over 2 million.

At the beginning of 2021, the combination of fighting and flooding, the worst in decades, has exacerbated the crisis. In Lekuangole, between February and November 2020, seven mothers reported that 13 of their children starved to death.