South Sudan will rise from the ashes of destruction

18May 2019
Correpondent
The Guardian
South Sudan will rise from the ashes of destruction

As we all know, our country is at war with herself. We are all engulfed by the spirit and culture of war. Wherever we look in our country, we are met by destruction:

  By Deng Ezekiel Ghew

 it is how much we have destroyed than built that is conspicuous all over the country, and that has become synonymous with our identity all over the world.

Our country has been bent towards self-destruction and self-extinction for so long that it has undermined our growth as a nation. Contrary to the beautiful days, now wherever one goes in South Sudan, what meets the ears is the mourning of bereaved families burying their loved ones; what meets the eyes are bodies littering our land all over.

What one hears are sounds of predatory birds and wild carnivores preying on the bodies of South Sudanese! What one hears these days in our villages are the wailings of women, young children, old men, and women under renewed attacks! What covers our skies are smokes of villages on fire! And on everyone's face are signs of despair, destruction, and uncertainties about the future!

Wherever one goes in South Sudan, what one finds are graves in which the great men and women, the finest of our generations, have been laid to rest! In those graves are brains of many potential greats: brains of literary giants whose literature books would have enriched our literary world; brains of great scientists and great doctors who would have rolled back the burden of diseases that we face daily; of great musicians and artists who would have composed songs we would be singing for generations; brains of great economists who would have revived our economy from the jaws and menace of those politicians who looted the country's resources and threw our economy, mercilessly, to the dogs; and, finally, in those graves are the brains of great leaders, or politicians who would have called for freedom, liberty and equal distribution of resources in our country; those who would have called for the rule of law, those who would have proclaimed to us, that in the eyes of those laws we should be viewed equally; those who would have called for our government to discharge its full responsibilities, that where there is plenty, poverty is but evil, and where there is government, our citizens shouldn't be facing what they face today in the land of great abundance! That poverty and government are incompatible; great enemies to each other, especially in this century!

Where there's a properly functioning system, human being, the child of Almighty God, shouldn't live in poverty, but in plenty, with dignified life! Those are the great leaders we lost to human brutality fueled by the superstition that we can't co-exist, side by side, as sisterly tribes or communities or sub communities! And as a consequence, our land is tragically full of graves with bones of great athletes who would have won us medals and trophies from different competitions! In those graves are bones of beauty queens: young South Sudanese women who died at very young age, with potentials unleashed; robbed from us by human cruelty; brains of activists - those who would have called for justice, freedom for all; and for self-expression, a chance to be listened to and to listen to others, to distinguish ourselves from other creatures, the beasts of the forests and the wild! In those graves are the brains of great professors: educationists who would have taught our generations to achieve their God-given potentials; that every child should be given a decent chance in life to achieve whatever he/she sets his/her eyebrows on, and our government should function to avail those chances.

But history has shown - time and again - that when men overcome their differences and decide to work for the betterment of all, they can bend the arc of history once more in a better direction. It is up to us then to bring back hopes to our people. It is up to the youth to rise from all corners of our country, and beyond our borders, to call for peace and national reconciliation! It is up to us to put the best angels of our humanity to work. It is up to us to remind our politicians that it is not destruction as they constantly peddle that we need as a nation - what we need from our government is a restoration of human dignity, wiping of tears from our faces, and an end to the bloodshed that has soaked our soils for so long! It is up to us to call for rebuilding of our country: one in which justice flows like the mighty waters of the Nile; one in which freedom for all matches our common humanity; one in which plenty is cherished by all; one in which equality in the eye of laws is like a daily bread and easily accessed by all; one in which all our citizens should live as they wish and worship as they please!

We must call for those things to happen, not because they lay the foundation for our growth, although they do; not because the civilized world demands them, although it does; not because we missed them for so long, though we do; and not because our politicians constantly forget them, though they do! We called for them because that is the best way to live as human beings, to meet the challenges of the constantly changing world. From the ashes of destruction, we can rise once more and bend the arc of history in a better direction, where our common humanity can be unleashed! Let us be each other's keeper, let's work for one another, let us watch each other's back, and protect our hard-won liberty and freedom from the menace of mankind! Let us rewrite our history once more!

South Sudan   officially known as the Republic of South Sudan,  is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa.  The country gained its independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, making it the newest country with widespread recognition. Its capital and largest city is Juba.

South Sudan is bordered by Sudan to the north, Ethiopia to the east, Kenya to the southeast, Uganda to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest and the Central African Republic to the west. It includes the vast swamp region of the Sudd, formed by the White Nile and known locally as the Bahr al Jabal, meaning "Mountain Sea". Sudan was occupied by Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty and was governed as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium until Sudanese independence in 1956. Following the First Sudanese Civil War, the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was formed in 1972 and lasted until 1983. A second Sudanese civil war soon broke out, ending in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Later that year, southern autonomy was restored when an Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan was formed. South Sudan became an independent state on 9 July 2011, following 98.83 per cent support for independence in a January 2011 referendum.

South Sudan has a population of 12 million, mostly of the Nilotic peoples. Christianity is the majority religion. In September 2017 the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict said that half of South Sudan's inhabitants are under 18 years old.  It is a member of the United Nations,  the African Union,  the East African Community  and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.  In July 2012, South Sudan signed the Geneva Conventions.  South Sudan has suffered ethnic violence and has been in a civil war since 2013. As of 2018, South Sudan ranks third lowest in the latest UN World Happiness Report,  and has the highest score on the American Fund for Peace's Fragile States Index (formerly the Failed States Index).  

The Nilotic people of South Sudan—the Acholi, Anyuak, Bari, Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Kaligi (Arabic Feroghe), and others—first entered South Sudan sometime before the 10th century coinciding with the fall of medieval nubia. During the period from the 15th to the 19th centuries, tribal migrations, largely from the area of Bahr el Ghazal, brought the Anyuak, Dinka, Nuer and Shilluk to their modern locations of both Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile Regions, while the Acholi and Bari settled in Equatoria. The Azande, Mundu, Avukaya and Baka, who entered South Sudan in the 16th century, established the region's largest state of Equatoria Region.

The Dinka are the largest, Nuer the second largest, the Azande the third-largest and the Bari are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the country. They are found in the Maridi, Yambio, and Tombura districts in the tropical rainforest belt of Western Equatoria, the Adio of Azande client in Yei, Central Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal. In the 18th century, the Avungara sib rose to power over the rest of Azande society and this domination continued into the 20th century.  Geographical barriers, including the swamplands along the White Nile and the British preference for sending Christian missionaries to the southern regions, including its Closed District Ordinance of 1922 (see History of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan), helped to prevent the spread of Islam to the southerners, thus enabling them to retain their social and cultural heritage, as well as their political and religious institutions. The major reasons include the long history of British policy preference toward developing the Arab north and its ignoring the Black south. After Sudan's first independent elections in 1958, the continued ignoring of the south by Khartoum (lack of schools, roads, bridges) led to uprisings, revolt, and the longest civil war on the continent.  As of 2012, peoples include Acholi, Anyuak, Azande, Baka, Balanda Bviri, Bari, Boya, Didinga, Dinka, Jiye, Kaligi, Kuku, Lotuka, Mundari, Murie, Nilotic, Nuer, Shilluk, Toposa and Zande.  

Slavery had been an institution of Sudanese life throughout history.  The slave trade in the south intensified in the 19th century, and continued after the British had suppressed slavery in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Annual Sudanese slave raids into non-Muslim territories resulted in the capture of countless thousands of southern Sudanese, and the destruction of the region's stability and economy.   

The Azande have had good relations with the neighbours, namely the Moru, Mundu, Pöjulu, Avukaya, Baka and the small groups in Bahr el Ghazal, due to the expansionist policy of their king Gbudwe, in the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Azande fought the French, the Belgians and the Mahdists to maintain their independence. Egypt, under the rule of Khedive Ismail Pasha, first attempted to control the region in the 1870s, establishing the province of Equatoria in the southern portion. Egypt's first governor was Samuel Baker, commissioned in 1869, followed by Charles George Gordon in 1874 and by Emin Pasha in 1878.  

The Mahdist Revolt of the 1880s destabilized the nascent province, and Equatoria ceased to exist as an Egyptian outpost in 1889. Important settlements in Equatoria included Lado, Gondokoro, Dufile and Wadelai. European colonial maneuverings in the region came to a head in 1898, when the Fashoda Incident occurred at present-day Kodok; Britain and France almost went to war over the region.  In 1947, British hopes to join South Sudan with Uganda, as well as leaving Western Equatoria as part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were dashed by the Rajaf Conference to unify North and South Sudan.

South Sudan has an estimated population of 8 million,[41] but, given the lack of a census in several decades, this estimate may be severely distorted. The economy is predominantly rural and relies chiefly on subsistence farming. Around 2005, the economy began a transition from this rural dominance, and urban areas within South Sudan have seen extensive development.

The region has been negatively affected by two civil wars since Sudanese independence: from 1955 to 1972, the Sudanese government fought the Anyanya rebel army (Anya-Nya is a term in the Madi language which means "snake venom")  during the First Sudanese Civil War, followed by the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) in the Second Sudanese Civil War for over 20 years.

As a result, the country suffered serious neglect, a lack of infrastructural development, and major destruction and displacement. More than 2.5 million people have been killed and millions more have become refugees both within and outside the country.

Independence (2011)

Between 9 and 15 January 2011, a referendum was held to determine whether South Sudan should become an independent country and separate from Sudan. 98.83 per cent of the population voted for independence.  South Sudan formally became independent from Sudan on 9 July, although certain disputes still remained, including the division of oil revenues, as 75 per cent of all the former Sudan's oil reserves are in South Sudan.  The region of Abyei still remains disputed and a separate referendum will be held in Abyei on whether they want to join Sudan or South Sudan.  The South Kordofan conflict broke out in June 2011 between the Army of Sudan and the SPLA over the Nuba Mountains.

On 9 July 2011 South Sudan became the 54th independent country in Africa  and since 14 July 2011, South Sudan is the 193rd member of the United Nations.  On 27 July 2011 South Sudan became the 54th country to join the African Union.  

South Sudan was at war with at least seven armed groups in 9 of its 10 states, with tens of thousands displaced.[49] The fighters accuse the government of plotting to stay in power indefinitely, not fairly representing and supporting all tribal groups while neglecting development in rural areas. Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) also operates in a wide area that includes South Sudan.  

Inter-ethnic warfare that in some cases predates the war of independence is widespread. In December 2011, tribal clashes in Jonglei intensified between the Nuer White Army of the Lou Nuer and the Murle.  The White Army warned it would wipe out the Murle and would also fight South Sudanese and UN forces sent to the area around Pibor.  

In March 2012, South Sudanese forces seized the Heglig oil fields in lands claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan in the province of South Kordofan after conflict with Sudanese forces in the South Sudanese state of Unity.  South Sudan withdrew on 20 March, and the Sudanese Army entered Heglig two days later.

Civil war (2013–present)

In December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, as the president accused Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d'état.  

Fighting broke out, igniting the South Sudanese Civil War. Ugandan troops were deployed to fight alongside South Sudanese government forces against the rebels.

 The United Nations has peacekeepers in the country as part of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Numerous ceasefires were mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM – in opposition and were subsequently broken.

A peace agreement was signed in Ethiopia under threat of United Nations sanctions for both sides in August 2015.  Machar returned to Juba in 2016 and was appointed vice president.  

Following a second breakout of violence in Juba, Machar was replaced as vice-president  and he fled the country  as the conflict erupted again. Rebel in-fighting has become a major part of the conflict. ] Rivalry among Dinka factions led by the President and Malong Awan have also led to fighting. In August 2018, another power sharing agreement came into effect.  

About 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the war,  including notable atrocities such as the 2014 Bentiu massacre.  Although both men have supporters from across South Sudan's ethnic divides, subsequent fighting has been communal, with rebels targeting members of Kiir's Dinka ethnic group and government soldiers attacking Nuers.

 More than 4 million people have been displaced, with about 1.8 million of those internally displaced, and about 2.5 million having fled to neighboring countries, especially Uganda and Sudan.

Politics

South Sudan's presidential guard on Independence Day, 2011

The now-defunct Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly ratified a transitional constitution  shortly before independence on 9 July 2011.  The constitution was signed by the

The constitution establishes a presidential system of government headed by a president who is head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. It also establishes the National Legislature comprising two houses: a directly elected assembly, the National Legislative Assembly, and a second chamber of representatives of the states, the Council of States.  

John Garang, the founder of the SPLA/M, was the first president of the autonomous government until his death on 30 July 2005. Salva Kiir Mayardit,  his deputy, was sworn in as First Vice President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan on 11 August 2005. Riek Machar  replaced him as Vice-President of the Government. Legislative power is vested in the government and the bicameral National Legislature. The constitution also provides for an independent judiciary, the highest organ being the Supreme Court.

National capital project

The capital of South Sudan is located at Juba, which is also the state capital of Central Equatoria and the county seat of the eponymous Juba County, and is the country's largest city. However, due to Juba's poor infrastructure and massive urban growth, as well as its lack of centrality within South Sudan, the South Sudanese Government adopted a resolution in February 2011 to study the creation of a new planned city to serve as the seat of government.  It is planned that the capital city will be changed to the more centrally located Ramciel.  This proposal is functionally similar to construction projects in Abuja, Nigeria; Brasília, Brazil; and Canberra, Australia; among other modern-era planned national capitals. It is unclear how the government will fund the project.

In September 2011, a spokesman for the government said the country's political leaders had accepted a proposal to build a new capital at Ramciel,  a place in Lakes state near the borders with Central Equatoria and Jonglei. Ramciel is considered to be the geographical center of the country,  and the late pro-independence leader John Garang allegedly had plans to relocate the capital there before his death in 2005. The proposal was supported by the Lakes state government and at least one Ramciel tribal chief. The design, planning, and construction of the city will likely take as many as five years, government ministers said, and the move of national institutions to the new capital will be implemented in stages.  

States

Prior to 2015, South Sudan was divided into 10 states, which also correspond to three historical regions: Bahr el Ghazal, Equatoria, and Greater Upper Nile:

 

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