By Waseeo Ahmed
South Sudan gained full autonomy from Sudan on July 9th 2011 making it the world’s youngest nation. Initially, South Sudanese independence was met with great hope and expectation from not only the Sudanese community but the international one also. South Sudan had bright prospects in 2011, since it is rich in oil and has beautiful natural scenery that is ideal for a large tourist industry. Worldwide everyone believed South Sudan would boom economically like other Sub-Saharan African nations such as Kenya or Nigeria. No one however expected South Sudan to become what it is today, just four years after independence, a nation plagued by genocide, famine, poverty, mass human displacement, and civil war.
Before explaining the conflict that is currently taking place in South Sudan we must analyze the history and backstory of South Sudan’s independence and people groups. South Sudan is no stranger to conflict, as historically the tribes of South Sudan (today mostly Christian) fought hard to keep the Arab/Muslim influence from Sudan out of South Sudan (this fighting was regulated after the British takeover of the region). However, after the downfall of the European African Colonial Empires and the creation of nations based on problematic European-made boundaries, ethnic and religious groups who fought each other for centuries were now forced to be each-other’s country men and live alongside one another. To add further insult to injury the people left in power after the British left were mostly the Arab-Muslim population of Sudan (speaking of Sudan pre-2011) who racially and religiously discriminated against the Christian tribes of Southern Sudan. This for obvious reasons angered the South Sudanese tribes and two civil wars ensued over South Sudanese independence. These two wars lasted about 40 years and led to the deaths of 1-2 million people.
Once the second Sudanese Civil War ended in 2005 and over a million lay dead, it became clear that the Christian tribes of South Sudan and the Muslim Arabs of Sudan could not live in unison. So a road towards gradual autonomy was carved out by the Sudanese Government, The African Union, The U.N and the mock South Sudanese Government. The mock South Sudanese Government is made up of high ranking rebel fighters and officials from the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army).SalvaKiir, a hardened veteran of the independence war (commander in chief of the SPLA) was elected as South Sudanese president, with an overwhelming amount of the vote, 93%. There is evidence against SalvaKiir being politically corrupt, chauvinistic and a charismatic dominant. The major accusation against him is of him orchestrating the assassination of the man who would have become South Sudanese president instead of him, Dr. John Garang. Garang was the political leader of the South Sudanese people since 1983 and was highly favored by both South Sudanese and Sudanese; Kiir, although he was the military head of the rebel army, would have in no way been able to beat Dr. Garang in an election. Garang died in a mysterious helicopter crash on July 30th 2005 flying to a meeting supposedly at the Ugandan/Kenyan border however all of this is speculation as Garang didn’t tell anyone where he was going or who he was meeting with. Garang’s death opened up a power vacuum for Kiir to fill and seeing that Kiir was Garang’s right hand man, the Sudanese people voted overwhelmingly in his favor. SalvaKiir is also of the Dinka ethnic group, which is one of the two major tribes of South Sudan and he reportedly treats the Nuer, the other major ethnic group of South Sudan, with disrespect and puts in place racist practices which hinder the Nuer economically and socially.
Before independence, the tribes of South Sudan always had an enemy to fight against whether it be the British, the Sudanese or the Nubians. Now however the question arises: Do we continue our warrior cultures or do we integrate? All of these factors are what will lead up to the blood filled conflict which as of 2016 will kill thousands and will displace millions.