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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.


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.




Is there hope for South Sudan's future?


South Sudan is one of the few with the youngest population globally (more than 70% under the age of 30). The liberation in 2011 promised progress and human rights. So far, everyone has been treated as a second-class citizen. The youth of South Sudan will need to own their independence, which will only come through the peace of Christ ruling the hearts of men and women.


South Sudan is one of the areas included in the ancient territory of Kush, (כּוּש) which prophet Isaiah had a prophecy against. Isaiah describes Kushites as:


"a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers" (Isaiah 18:2).


Isaiah prophesies that Kush will receive God's judgment (verse 6) as there is a time of ripening when pruning comes. And afterward, a "tribute will be brought to the Lord of hosts" (ESV) by the inhabitants of Kush.


Ezekiel 30:4 also predicts a time of judgment for Kush, and Psalm 68:31 predicts a time when Kush "will quickly stretch out her hands to God" (NASB).


What would be more pleasing to our Lord than hearts reaching towards Him in worship and peace reigning in the land? - Pray that the pruning is almost over, and the gifts to the Lord will be given.


West Nile's Bidi Bidi in Yumbe is a host to over 270,000 refugees, the world's largest single displaced settlement. MERCY PARTNERS is responsible for commissioning 100 trainees of Community Health Evangelism this September. Pray for our efforts on the border of South Sudan in West Nile.


 


MERCY PARTNERS provides sustainable aid to confront the refugee crisis from the start and host outreaches to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP's),so they don't become refugees. One could say MERCY PARTNERS is "Changing hearts in hostile countries."


Displaced persons desire to return to the place where they were born. It is only that their land is war-torn or collapsed. MERCY PARTNERS provides a vital link for Christian brothers and sisters to extend dignity to all men and understand that the dynamics of our world have changed.


South Sudan is landlocked with the war in its closed borders. MERCY PARTNERS, therefore, engages Sudanese refugees of 56 marginalized tribes who have fled to neighboring nations to find relief.

MERCY PARTNERS has a heart for providing relief in conflict zones and holds that emerging countries in turmoil pose a great opportunity for evangelism. Christians should be willing to foster healing in communities divided by conflict, regardless of the source of the conflict.


We believe that extending dignity is worth more than intercultural exchange.


MERCY PARTNERS is recognized by the United States Government as a Charitable Non-Profit, under Q30 - International Development, Relief Services - National Security.


 

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Thomas, Director of Communications for Mercy Partners





ABOUT THE AUTHOR...

Thomas Kilian III, as Director of Communication, has personal relationships with our Global Partners having traveled to most of our mission points. He is degreed with a Bachelors of Science in the school professional studies, with high honor, majoring in biblical studies, general ministries, and biblical exposition. He's an ordained Evangelist and is the author of the forthcoming book Start being, Stop Doing (www.startbeing.today).



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