Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. After more than 50 years of violence between northern and southern Sudan, the South finally gained its independence last July, becoming the Republic of South Sudan. Although there were high hopes for the Republic of South Sudan’s new found freedom, too many unresolved issues between the country of Sudan and the new Republic of South Sudan have made the divide and transition difficult. So what went wrong?
We initially discussed this topic last year at the beginning of the split, noting that although the new Republic of South Sudan had a somewhat hopeful outlook, the country had a lot of catching up to do to live up to its potential. Sudan’s populace is one of the most diverse in Africa, and is made up of hundreds of tribes and ethnic groups. As they try to come to peace and settle their differences, there are a mix of interconnected factors that is making this difficult to achieve. Below we briefly touch on five reasons why South Sudan is still struggling, a year later, in its efforts to make peace:
1. Continual arguing about the new borderline. Riek Macher, the vice president of South Sudan, stated that only 40 percent of the new borderline has been determined. This is different from the claim that Sudan is making: that 80 percent of the border has been decided.
2. Nuba Mountain People. Many Nuba Mountain people, who live in the remote foothills of the southern part of Sudan, would have preferred to be included in South Sudan in the split. In the past year, thousands of Nuba Mountain people have died from bombings as a response from the north to their rebel groups. These people are struggling with starvation, as they haven’t planted crops due to fear of the north when they leave their hiding spots.
3. Military factions. Several children are reliving the 1990’s Lost Boys period as they flee to South Sudan to seek refuge from the militias and Nuba Mountain bombings. Refugees continue to have a shortage of food and water aid.
4. The subject of oil is escalating between Sudan and South Sudan. This region of Africa is known for its oil-rich land. Both countries are heavily dependent on oil revenues for income and the oil fields run across the border region. Squabbling continues as the north and south can’t agree deals on the sharing of oil revenue.
5. Cultural differences persist as a point of disparity between the traditional nomad groups and the more settled tribes for key natural resources. Additionally, there are some overhanging historical differences between the predominantly Arab North and Christian-influenced South. Without dealing with or accepting these differences, hostility will most likely occur.
It is evident that South Sudan has a ways to go. Yet we must try to remain hopeful for this situation. The UN, with strong support from the US, EU, China and other African leaders, have worked to try and quell the conflict by urging peace talks between the two countries. Several organizations are trying to help rebuild the hurt region and its people such as Hope for Humanity, Samaritan’s Pursuit and the UN Refugee Agency. Actor George Clooney is making efforts to monitor the crisis in Sudan by the Satellite Sentinel Project. Also, social media is being used more than ever to bring awareness to what is happening in Sudan and South Sudan. You can go to their websites to find out more about this.
The world will continue to follow this devastating conflict in northeastern Africa and hope that this region will finally work out their differences and come to peace.