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Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS)



News from Br. Bill Firman

01/04/2014: South Sudan - Photo gallery

This is an update on Solidarity with South Sudan sent by Br. Bill Firman, Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan, a De La Salle Christian Brother, who lives in Juba.

The top of a good pie looks quite firm and stable as you look down upon it. That’s what I’m seeing in South Sudan at present. Where I am, life seems normal and calm. One could easily forget what is happening in some parts of the country. But who knows what lies beneath the crust? We know there is almost nobody in Malakal, except soldiers and we hear dead bodies lie unburied in the streets. Reports from Malakal and other areas of conflict are vague and sometimes contradictory. There are claims and counter claims. The last few weeks have been relatively quiet, it seems to me, yet we really have no idea if the crust is about to break apart. Are there only a few, isolated bad spots beneath the crust or it is all festering and getting worse? Who can provide the necessary antibiotic? Who is doing what, to whom, and for what purpose? I don’t really know. What I do know is that many innocent people have had their lives greatly disrupted not only by the violence in South Sudan but by the continuing struggles in surrounding regions. I fear the coming wet season may hasten the collapse of the crust. Maybe the UN umbrella will  be big enough to protect the crust but why is the UN itself being attacked so much by politicians? Sorry, I can’t answer these questions. I can’t see more than the crust. I may not be Solomon but somehow my instincts tell me now is not the time to try to poke my fingers inside this pie.

Here down you can read more in english about the situation in South Sudan.

The latest estimates now speak of more than 20,000 killed in the recent conflict within South Sudan and more than one million displaced. Who really knows? What we do know is that the wet season is coming, that many people will not be able to plant crops and that it will be a hungry time for too many. There is a developing concern that those states in South Sudan that have remained stable may be drawn into the conflict by an invasion of very hungry people from the areas of conflict seeking food. We read that ‘United Nations World Food Programmed (WFP) and its partners have so far provided food and nutrition assistance to nearly half a million conflict-affected people in South Sudan…. WFP is using a combination of airlifts and airdrops to reach tens of thousands of people in remote, hard-to-reach areas.’

The humanitarian crisis within South Sudan, however, is not confined only to South Sudanese but also involves people fleeing from their homelands in the north to places such as Maban and Yida. Maban was a small town in South Sudan but now houses 122,000 refugees in four large camps. Most have fled from another ‘forgotten war’ the attack by the Khartoum government on the people of the state of Blue Nile, technically part of the north (Sudan), but ethically aligned with South Sudan. It was disturbing to read in an article in the Sudan Tribune yesterday:

‘Blue Nile refugees are in critical situation and need the protection and support of the United Nations agencies, as they are asked to evacuate their camps in South Sudan’s Maban county…. the Sudanese refugees from Blue Nile state are facing a difficult choice as the host community of Maban county in Unity state, which is controlled by the South Sudanese government, asked them to leave the area… Tensions between two communities started early this month, as a result of accusations of livestock theft and cutting down of trees has aggravated their situation.’

Sudan is bombing the Nuba Mountains area, where the people are also ethnically South Sudanese but part of another one of the Sudan states, South Kordofan. Many people have fled from this conflict and there are some 82,000 people in Yida in South Sudan. 25,000 of them are school age children. It is also reported by WFP that  “Nearly 85,000 refugees (from South Sudan) have arrived in Ethiopia, many in very poor condition with alarmingly high levels of malnutrition”

Further, there are many thousands of South Sudanese who have fled into Kenya and Uganda – and some families, have been moved there out of harm’s way, by those ‘big men’ who can afford to do so. As always it is the ordinary people who suffer the heavy burden of war while those, who cause the conflict, side-step direct involvment and negate any impact on their own families.

In the east, the Darfur region of Sudan, well publicised a few years ago because of the conflict there, continues to be an unstable area. The rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) describes itself as ‘a force representing the interests of the Darfuris in dissent against the government’ in Khartoum. The JEM joined the South Sudan Government troops in the attack on Leer, a Nuer town in South Sudan. After looting and burning, the JEM returned to Darfur, probably well satisfied with their spoils. War always has its own reward for some – and tragedy for others.

Like many of the protagonists in the diverse conflicts of Sudan and South Sudan, the JEM try to claim the high morale ground.  The JEM spokeperson says that JEM ‘is ready for dialogue and coordination with any political force’ which sounds reasonable until you read the rest of the sentence, ‘to overthrow the regime...’ In South Sudan, Riek Machar describes his rebels as the ‘pro-democracy forces trying to overthrow the Dictator in Juba, Salva Kiir’– who is actually the elected leader.

Does all this sound messy and confusing? I think it does and it is! Solomon where are you?


Br Bill

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