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[Dehai-WN] RNW.nl: South Sudan: Rebellion, Violence in World's Newest Nation

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2012 20:39:20 +0100

 <http://allafrica.com/southsudan/> South Sudan: Rebellion, Violence in
World's Newest Nation

9 January 2012



Six months after the world's youngest country euphorically declared its
independence, South Sudan is riven by conflict, killings and ethnic tensions
as it stumbles along the path of nation building.

Two decades of war with former enemies from the now rump state of north
Sudan left the grossly underdeveloped south in ruins, awash with guns, rival
militia forces and split by bitter divisions between multiple tribes.

On Friday, a top official from the Jonglei region claimed thousands of
people were killed in a wave of tribal violence last week.

Joshua Konyi, the commissioner for Pibor county in Jonglei state, said 3,141
people had been killed. The UN and South Sudanese army officials have not
confirmed the death toll, which would be the worst outbreak of ethnic
violence ever seen in the fledgling nation.

Aside from internal conflict, South Sudan faces tensions in oil-rich regions
along the still-undefined border with the north, with each side accusing the
other of backing rebels and analysts warning of the risk of all-out war.

In late December, Juba accused Khartoum of killing 17 civilians in two days
of bombing raids on the South Sudan border state of Western Bahr al-Ghazal,
a charge denied by Khartoum.

The most pressing issue for the new country, the size of Spain and Portugal
combined but with few tarred roads outside the state capitals, "is without
doubt that of security," Giorgio Musso, a professor at the University of
Genoa, said in an October paper.

Since independence, South Sudan's ex-rebel army has succeeded in defeating
several rebel leaders -- killing some, while others negotiated surrender
with their troops joining the bloated 100,000-strong military, itself
divided along ethnic lines.

"Much of the internal instability recently experienced ... has to do with
unsettled disputes within the SPLM/A (ruling party and army) itself,
embroiling the very elite which is supposed to settle them," Musso added.

Several of the remaining rebel forces have proffered nominal political
agendas, many of them accusing the government of corruption, election
rigging and of the domination of President Salva Kiir's Dinka ethnic group
over other tribes.

The south, which broke free on July 9, has repeatedly accused Khartoum of
continuing civil war tactics of destabilising it by shipping arms to militia
groups -- claims denied by the north.

Historical enmities between rival groups were exacerbated by the war, while
traditional societal structures were badly shaken by a youth brought up to
rely on guns for survival.

Many armed youths, with expectations and ambitions raised high by South
Sudan's historic independence, see taking up arms as a solution to their
crushing poverty, stealing cattle in bloody tit-for-tat raids.

"South Sudan has a traumatised population who are used to using violence as
a method to solve their disputes, and it will be a long, slow process to
change this attitude," long-time Sudan expert John Ashworth said.

One of the hardest hit regions is the troubled eastern state of Jonglei,
where violence last week left thousands displaced and local officials
warning of heavy loss of life in bloody massacres.

"The inter-communal violence that we're seeing is not new, but it is a
particularly serious episode," Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch said.

Konyi -- the commissioner for Pibor county - said a column of some 6,000
rampaging armed youths from the Lou Nuer tribe last week marched into Pibor,
home to the rival Murle people, whom they blame for abductions and cattle
raiding and have vowed to exterminate.

When the Lou Nuer gunmen attacked at the weekend, they allegedly torched
huts and looted a hospital, only withdrawing after government troops opened

Over 1,000 children are missing, feared abducted, while tens of thousands of
cows were stolen, said Konyi, who is himself an ethnic Murle.

"The inter-communal violence that we're seeing is not new, but it is a
particularly serious episode," Jehanne Henry of Human Rights Watch said.

Ethnic violence and cattle raids in Jonglei alone left over 1,100 people
dead and forced some 63,000 from their homes last year, according to UN

Cattle are key to many of the south's pastoralist ethnic groups, providing a
community's source of wealth and pride, and the government has struggled to
break the violent cycles of raid and counter-raid.

Building a new state takes time, but while South Sudan has made massive
strides since the war ended seven years ago, on January 9, 2005, many still
feel development has been too slow.

Rampant corruption and poorly educated civil servants compound the
difficulties faced by a state struggling to support hundreds of thousands of
people returning to the south from the north where they fled during the war.

Furthermore, difficult negotiations with Khartoum over pipeline fees to
transport the south's oil reserve -- on which some 98 percent of its budget
relies - on the only available routes northwards, are stalled.

But the south - which has huge agricultural potential as well as believed
valuable mineral reserves -- does offer a "bright future," Ashworth said,
adding he "absolutely rejected" descriptions of the south as a failed state.

"South Sudan is a new, young state, developing slowly, lacking in experience
and infrastructure, but it has already made great strides and is still
moving forward," Ashworth said.

"The violence in Jonglei and elsewhere is tragic, but it has to be set
against the fact that most of the people of this vast new nation are going
about their lives relatively peacefully most of the time."




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