A recent United Nations report indicates that South Sudan has not made significant progress towards healing the young nation’s wounds, two years after the end of a civil war that took 40,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that instead of healing, the country is fracturing along tribal lines, with politicians arming communities against each other. This will come as no surprise to readers of Amjambo Africa, which has reported in previous articles on the division of South Sudan’s top political leaders according to tribal identity.
The report by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, which was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, names rampant corruption as a danger to the healing of the nation, and notes that South Sudanese authorities show little political will to prosecute serious crimes and are actually arming militias in their communities. According to the report, sexual violence and food shortages are fueling the worsening conflict in the country, which is ranked among the weakest countries on common human development indexes. In addition to living through perpetual conflict, more than half of South Sudan’s population is hungry, a situation worsened by floods that have forced many from their homes since July.
New Mainers from South Sudan who have talked to Amjambo Africa in the past have expressed hope for the nation’s speedy recovery, after rival leaders broke a peace agreement deal in February 2020 designed to end armed conflicts and form a unity government. Contrary to their hopes, however, the United Nations report says that undercover national actors are arming local militias with weapons in order to attack neighboring communities. And all of this is happening despite an arms embargo ordered by the United Nations.
The South Sudan government rejects the U.N report. “All these reports are written by people who are seated comfortably in Juba hotels. They write such reports to guarantee continuity [in their positions],” said government spokesman Michael Makuei, who also asserted that the country is in fact implementing the peace deal.
The oil-rich country is fighting economic hardship, including serious depreciation of its currency. Reuters reports that in July 2020 the country’s central bank ran out of foreign exchange reserve. The Cabinet convened on Friday, October 9, and agreed to adopt a new currency and drop the former South Sudanese pound in order to save the economy. South Sudan has the third largest oil reserve on the African continent, after Nigeria and Libya.
South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011 but descended into war again two years later, when President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar started feuding. Later, under mediation, the leaders joined hands again in an effort to stabilize the country. It is widely acknowledged that if the country is to heal, the two leaders will need to work together, and that what they tell their respective tribes and supporters will be key to the peace process.