JUBA, South Sudan- Achieving its independence in 2012, South Sudan is the newest country in the world, and since its independence, it has been experiencing significant strife. Border disputes between South Sudan and Sudan is only one aspect of the conflict, with ethnic groups also having issues. There have been multiple human rights violations in the area as well, causing thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of misplaced peoples. There have been mass graves as a result of the killings, with specific targeting of different ethnic groups by other ethnic groups. There have been multiple reports of sexual violations on women and children by South Sudanese soldiers. Child soldiers have been seen fighting in conflicts as well, which has brought the attention of the issue to the rest of the world, which is finally taking action to help.
There have also been multiple disputes on the border with Sudan, one case concerning the Abyei region, in which a referendum on whether its occupants will join the north or the south is continuously delayed by voter eligibility. The cattle-herding Misseriya Arab tribesmen are in disagreement with the Dinka Ngok farmers who want to be a part of South Sudan. There is another dispute over the Nuba Mountains region of the South Kordofan state of Sudan. Northern Sudanese government forces continue to suppress and use violence on the Nuba people living there that are mostly Christian and pro-SPLA. Hundreds of people have been killed and around 100,000 have been displaced from disputes between the multiple feuding ethnic groups in Jonglei state. Civil war is feared after major conflict within the main political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM,) over supposed Dinka domination, with rebel forces forming the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) that opposes the current government.
Human Rights Issues
According to the human rights division of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS,) both rebel fighters and government forces are targeting and attacking soldiers and civilians, based on their ethnic identities alone. UNMISS has investigated multiple reports of mass graves, with three confirmed so far. Two were in the oil-rich Unity state, and the other was in the capital of Juba, and there are still investigations going on to verify all accounts of targeted killings of civilians and other rights abuses, as well as investigations of other mass grave sites. The fighting has killed thousands of people and over 860,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, with many people of the once-neighboring Dinka and Nuer communities fleeing each other. UNMISS investigators have declared that “fighting between opposing armed groups took on ethnic dimensions and while some civilians were caught in the cross-fire, others were deliberately targeted along ethnic lines,” profoundly affecting the basic human rights and security of these people.
The conflicts around South Sudan have led to inexcusable crimes against human rights, with multiple reports of sexual violation of women and children. In the Pibor County of Jonglei, this violence has been emerging recently more than ever, with no cases occurring in 2005, and at least 26 cases of sexual violence in 2012. A recent survey found that more than 40% of women in South Sudan have been sexually or physically violated. Since the entire conflict began, over 100 South Sudanese soldiers have been arrested for abuses, including rape and sexual assault, abduction of women and children, wife inheritance without consent, forced child marriages, and trading female children for crimes their families have committed. What these women want most is the security of their bodies and for their assailants to be brought to justice.
According to South Sudanese national law and international law, no citizen should be able to fight in armed conflict, neither with an informal militia nor an army. The recent crises in South Sudan have led to the presence of child soldiers. UNICEF has been concerned with this issue for some time and suspected numerous combatants to be children in the conflict in South Sudan. These allegations have recently been confirmed by reports received by UNICEF, but the number of child combatants is still not certain. UNICEF reports to the U.N. Security Council and is monitoring the children affected by armed conflict in the country. They have called on both conflicting parties to halt the use of juvenile soldiers and release them straightaway. They are also reminding the parties that they are currently committed to international and national law and will face the consequences if they do not comply.
Outside action needs to be taken immediately, especially considering what has been happening in South Sudan as a result of all of the domestic struggles that have arisen from their separation from the north. A great way of helping the people of South Sudan is to consider imposing human rights reform upon the government in order to maintain international human rights standards within their government. Aid packages should also be sent to the country for all of the displaced families, as well as medical kits for those suffering from physical and sexual abuse. It is very important to try to stop violence in the world’s newest country because otherwise South Sudan might go into a full-fledged civil war and more innocent lives will be lost.
Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg, IRIN News, UNICEF, VOA News
Photo: Voice of America