By Lara Kajs
As South Sudan marks four years as a country, the cause for celebration is overshadowed by violence, hunger and the many other challenges that still face this very young nation.
In 2011, South Sudan voted to secede from Sudan. A very short two years later tension between now President Kiir and former Vice President Machar led to open fighting. The crisis in South Sudan is a man-made crisis created by the leader and the opposition. Since civil war erupted in 2013 countless thousands Sudanese have lost their lives and reports indicated 1.5 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs) and more than 730,000 have fled to safety in neighboring countries. Nearly 90 percent of refugees are women and children.
Human Rights Violations
There are reports of human rights violations and mass atrocities being committed in South Sudan including mass rape, torture, child recruitment, disappearances, and murder. These acts are being committed by government forces as well as armed opposition forces. Villages have been looted and burned and sexual violence committed against women and girls is so brutal that they are unable to reach safety.
In June, the UN released findings describing a new level of extreme brutality as it reported South Sudan’s armed forces had gang-raped, tortured and burned alive dozens of women and girls. In retaliation for the report, South Sudan expelled Mary Cummins, the U.N. diplomat responsible for the report on human rights violations in the country. In May, the country also expelled Toby Lanzer, U.N. humanitarian coordinator.
If extreme violence is not enough, an even greater cause for concern is the severe malnutrition that plagues the citizens of South Sudan as a result of constant conflict. More than two million face food insecurity of catastrophic proportions. Economically, the country is struggling. Oil productivity is down to one-third and with no other viable resources; many experts predict that the country is on the verge of collapse.
Conditions Continue to Decline
While the situation is critical for the South Sudanese people, the country continues to receive other refugees from Sudan. Continuing hostilities, instability, human rights violations increase the challenges that many humanitarian aid organizations face in offering support to the people of South Sudan.
For things to change in the country, the international community – specifically the U.N., African Union and other parties, have to demand an end to the impunity that has allowed perpetrators of the violence to not be held accountable. Addressing the core issues at the center of the civil war and dysfunction will make it possible for humanitarian aid to reach those suffering and will be a step forward toward a positive future for South Sudan.
Featured Image: People wait to fill up water containers in Bentui, South Sudan. Conflict, the threat of famine and tortuous peace negotiations are severely damaging the nascent nation. Photograph: Matthew Abbott/AP