Going by the estimates of the United Nations, UN, over 1,000 persons have died in the violence that erupted in South Sudan on December 15, 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those supporting Riek Machar, his former vice-president, took up arms. Malakal, a gateway city to the oilfields of the Upper Nile region, is the battlefield from where civilians have been trying to escape. According to reports, about 9,000 persons have arrived the UN base in Malakal in the past few weeks, while those who could afford it have crossed the river to a safe haven outside the enclave.
The UN reports show that since the fighting broke out in December, over 350,000 persons have been displaced. Unfortunately, not all those who fled their homes arrived their destinations safely. Just recently, over 200 people fleeing the fighting got drowned when their boat capsized. Philip Aguer, army spokesman, who stressed that all those in the boat drowned, said the “boat was overloaded.” According to him, women and children were among the victims.
While the country was still lamenting the loss of over 200 souls in the river, heavy fighting was reported in and around the government-held town of Malakal, following reports that rebels were closing in on the town. In the south, government troops were also said to be advancing on Bor, the only major town held by the rebels.
When South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, after a long and bloody conflict, many had thought that its citizens would enjoy some peace. But that did not happen. Having gained independence, the newly created state began another battle with its northern neighbour, Sudan, over oil fields, which are largely located in the south. At a point, South Sudan stopped the sale of oil, which has to pass through the pipes located in the north to get to the outside world. The action greatly affected the economy of the south, which is anchored on oil revenues. But following negotiations by countries in the region, the crisis was resolved, even though the relationship between the sister nations continues to remain sour.
One would have expected that having resolved the north/south crisis, South Sudan would breathe some air of relief. As it turned out however, another crisis erupted from within. This time, it is more of an ethnic crisis, as soldiers of the incumbent president and those loyal to his ex-deputy are locked on a show of power. While President Kiir is a member of the Dinka, South Sudan’s largest ethnic group, Machar is Nuer, the country’s second largest ethnic group. Since the eruption of the crisis, there have been mass killings along ethnic lines, even though both leaders have prominent supporters across ethnic lines.
Kiir (left) and former vice president: Take up arms
South Sudan soldiers set to regain lost territories from rebels