Cease Fire Brokered For South Sudan

On January 23, a cease fire deal for South Sudan was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by South Sudanese government officials and rebel leaders. The cease fire is meant to end a month-long conflict, which according to the United Nations has claimed over 1,000 casualties and has driven over 494,000 people from their homes since December.

The UN World Food Program has also said that 3,700 tons of food, meant to feed 220,000 for a month, has gone missing from its warehouses during the fighting. In addition, the talks are meant to address the release of 11 rebel fighters being held in government custody. These 11 individuals are accused of plotting against the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, according to a report by the Guardian.

South Sudan is in a unique position in that it is the world’s youngest nation, having gained independence from Sudan in 2011 via referendum. The country was born out of years of ethnically charged violence with opposing forces based out of Khartoum. A former British colony, the Republic of Sudan saw conflict and ethnic tensions almost since it achieved independence, partially because it covered such a vast amount of territory. South Sudan officially became independent on July 9, 2011.

Though it has vast oil reserves, South Sudan is still one of the world’s least developed countries. Earlier this month, skirmishes erupted in eastern part of the country along ethnic lines, in which tensions between two rival groups - the Nuer and the Dinka - have come to head.

However, reports on the ground garnered by the Guardian indicate that most people feel that much of the conflict stems from conflict among political elites. The president, Salva Kiir, and his party the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) was openly accused of authoritarianism by his vice president, the former warlord Riek Machar. Not long after, Kiir accused Machar of attempting to overthrow the government in a coup.

Since then, there have been simmering tensions between the two leaders. Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe, has since been accused of inciting ethnic tensions against the Dinka, the ethnic group to which Kiir belongs. Since then, both groups have experienced violence and instability. According to the International Rescue Committee, thousands of people are living in filthy, overcrowded camps, where the potential for both disease and violence are high.  

According to the BBC, the cease fire will require careful monitoring in order to maintain the terms. Peace talks have adjourned for now and will continue on February 7.


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