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.

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

For decades, inter-ethnic cattle raiding in the area has been a part of life. Still, attacks in recent years have become increasingly aggressive as political leaders have channeled weapons to community militias to fight on their behalf.

In 2020, Pibor was particularly affected by sub-national and localized violence and flooding—cutting off access to humanitarian services. As a result, aid has now dried up.

As of July 09, 2021, about 8 million people in South Sudan are facing hunger or famine conditions.

MERCY PARTNERS © Peter Caton for

Action Against Hunger, South Sudan.

Indisputable facts are washing up

These local waves of suffering, together with national trends, have also brought significant inflation. In February-March and June-July, coordinated attacks of unprecedented violence took place in Lekuangole and Gumuruk Payams (Counties). These attacks displayed extraordinary mobilization of forces, heavy weaponry, and different tactics that were distinct from previous raids that focused on the acquisition of cattle. The 2020 attacks instead targeted civilians.

According to one report dedicated to Pibor County alone, there have been:

385 fatalities,

350+ abductions

more than 8,000 orphans

39,000 homes burnt, plus the burning of crops,

raided towns

destruction of infrastructures, markets, schools, facilities, and warehouses

After the attacks, a second flood affected the area. The flood had the most significant magnitude in the history of greater Pibor and left a massive impact on people's shelters and livelihood—livestock. The households who planted after the attacks have lost most of their harvest.

The estimated 60,000 displaced persons are not likely to return due to the resurgence in conflict.