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If the recurring violence and instability persists in South Sudan, the northeastern country may soon join the list of non-existent African countries. Ever since it gained independence five years ago, the country has been rife with conflict, hunger and sexual assault. The most recent episode of violence in the country occurred on its fifth Independence Day commemoration. Instead of celebration, July 9, was marked with gunfire and death. A fight broke out between the soldiers of Salvar Kiir, South Sudan’s President and his vice, Riek Machar, and, although a ceasefire was declared, civilians are still at risk.

According to the International Organization of Migration (IOM), this recent crisis has displaced about 36,000 people. This is in addition to the 1.6 million who have been displaced since the beginning of the South Sudan crisis in 2013. Due to the increasing levels of insecurity and fear, over 700,000 people have fled the country. The UN projects that this number may reach one million in the coming months.

Withdrawal of the international community

Since the crisis started, many foreigners have been evacuated from South Sudan and many foreign-owned business operations may be shut down if the fighting persists. The United States of America sent in troops to evacuate its nationals and provide security for its embassy officials and China has also followed suit. The China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) has relocated most of its workers away from Juba. While the CNPC claims that some members of its staff have been left behind in South Sudan, activities within the petroleum company would dwindle drastically if the fighting continues.

Uncertainty over peace

While a United Nations peacekeeping force is on ground in South Sudan, the African Union has announced plans to deploy a force, which comprises of soldiers from five African countries. However, President Kiir is not interested in having more soldiers in his country. He reportedly said “there are over 12,000 foreign troops (UN) here in South Sudan, what do you need more forces for? What will they come and do? The UNMISS here has so many foreign troops. So we will not accept even a single soldier.”

For a President whose country is being ripped apart by war, Kiir’s response is quite insensitive. Why would he refuse a potential solution to the crisis rocking his country? Is Kiir purposely fuelling this crisis for selfish reasons? In the analysis done by BBC, Tomi Oladipo, is of the opinion that the presence of the AU force may be advantageous to Riek Machar.

“Mr Kiir’s troops make up the majority in and around the capital, Juba. So it would be a huge challenge for the AU force to attempt to call them to order, but it would provide a buffer to the outnumbered troops on Mr Machar’s side, whose whereabouts, following the recent fighting, remains unclear.” – Tomi Oladipo.

Quest for an elusive peace?

A peace agreement between the warring parties was signed in 2007 and this ushered in the transitional government. However, experts warn of a civil war recurrence. Also, with reports of a cholera outbreak in the country, things may escalate beyond the government’s control. Reuters reported that dozens of people have fallen ill with suspected cholera in South Sudan’s capital of Juba, while a UN food warehouse was looted and destroyed, incurring $20 million worth of damage.

Recently, the Guardian featured Photographer Robert Fogarty who made portraits of people bearing messages of hope for their war-torn country.

Edmund Yakani and Francis Taban. ‘Five years after independence,’ says Yakani, ‘we ask the international community to stay committed to securing peace in South Sudan and to keep putting pressure on our political leaders to act on behalf of their people, not in their own self-interest’
Ludia Mukhtar in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. The two-year civil war has killed at least 50,000 people and left 5.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
Mary Moses fled Malakal to Mangaten camp when war broke out. She now takes care of seven children in the camp, without the support of her husband, who stayed behind. She says that life there is difficult, with a lack of food. The World Food Programme reports that 2.8 million people in South Sudan face emergency or crisis level food insecurity
Edmund Yakani is a prominent South Sudanese activist and director of the Juba-based Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (Cepo), a leading civil society group that focuses on peace-building and the protection of civilians. He hopes Fogarty’s portraits will persuade governments to invest in the country’s future
Francis Taban, also a member of Cepo. The conflict has displaced one in every five people – more than 2.3 million. Atrocities have been reported across South Sudan, including forced cannibalism, sexual violence and attacks on civilians in their hospital beds
Benson Charles La Kema lost his wife in the first days of conflict in Juba. Living with disabilities caused by polio, he now takes care of his four children at Mangaten camp
Margret Ayajohn in Mangaten camp for internally displaced people. Following the recent deaths of her son, Pasquali, and his wife, Margret takes care of the couple’s two children at the camp in Juba. She is originally from Magwi county in the country’s south

Photo credits/captions

the Guardian UK

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