By: Victor Frunza

... The Situation in South Sudan!

After years of conflict between the Muslim north and the Christian and Traditionalist south, the Sudanese conflict ended with a treaty establishing the possibility of a southern secession from Sudan. In 2011, South Sudan became the world's newest recognized country.

The new country elected a President named Salva Kiir Mayardit. He is part of the largest ethnic group in the newly created South Sudan, the Dinka. He asked Riek Machar, a Nuer (the second largest ethnic group) to be his Vice President in an attempt to show unity in this new country. Machar soon began criticizing policies enacted by Kiir, and Kiir soon accused Machar of staging a coup against him. Violence soon broke out as forces loyal to Machar clashed with forces loyal to Kiir. This was in December 2013.

1,000 people died in the following week, and 100,000 people were displaced. A year and a half later, 50,000 people have died in the fighting and 1.6 million have been displaced. Both sides began encouraging civilian violence against other ethnic groups in order to gain more ground, and international actors have compared the situation to that of a "potential Rwanda", citing the human rights violations that all parties have committed.

In August 2015, both sides reached a shaky peace agreement facilitated by IGAD (an organization of countries in central Africa, including South Sudan). The agreement allowed for Machar to return to his post as Vice President a year later in 2016. This arrangement fell apart quickly as he returned to his post accompanied by a contingent of his soldiers, stating a fear for his life. Once again, forces clashed and Machar left the city. In October, Kiir attempted to redraw state borders, which many other ethnic groups saw as an attempt of a land grab by the Dinka. This resulted in more ethnic groups joining the civil war. Ceasefires have been created since but due to the complexity and the number of factions involved, none have lasted more than a few days.

Current Situation
The UN has steadily increased troop levels in South Sudan to a current level of 17,965 peacekeepers, the second largest in the world. Most operations are attempts to distribute humanitarian aid to 4 million people and report on troop activities. Violence has slowed in areas between the Sudan/South Sudan border due to these troops, but they've been ineffective elsewhere in the country.

Sanctions have been a big topic recently, with the US sanctioning oil companies used by Kiir to funnel money into arms to fuel the civil war. However few other countries are replying in kind due to high amounts of arms sales in the country. All sides of the conflict have been accused of countless human rights abuses. Most recently, starvation has used as a tactic in the fighting between government and rebel forces. African countries surrounding South Sudan, through IGAD, made gains diplomatically in December 2017. However, both sides have since violated the ceasefire. UN troops continue to be prevented from acting by the government and UN personnel continue to be abducted.

Major Issues & Questions

  • How can the United Nations operate effectively in a country when that country actively prevents the United Nations from moving around?

  • How should the United Nations respond when Aid workers and United Nations employees are abducted?

  • How can arms be prevented from entering the country when arms suppliers are on the Security Council and in neighbouring countries?

  • How can small-scale ethnic violence be reduced when governments and leaders actively encourage said violence?

  • What can the United Nations and neighbouring countries do to prevent governments from fueling ethnic divides that lead to violence?

  • How can such complex ethnic divides be bridged?

  • How can neighbouring nations aid South Sudan in its peace process?

  • How should peacekeeping forces as large as the one in South Sudan be used to prevent such massive violations of human rights?

  • Is peacekeeping the best tool for conflicts like South Sudan?

Victor Frunza