Southern Sudan facing new threat of war, says report


Five years after a civil war fought against the north, the people of the south are now fighting each other, writes NICK WADHAMSin Nairobi

FIVE YEARS after emerging from a brutal civil war, southern Sudan has seen a sharp rise in violence and risks slipping back into full-blown chaos, aid agencies said in a report released yesterday.

The 10 aid groups said tensions were rising in south Sudan ahead of national elections this year and a referendum in 2011 on secession from the rest of the country. Unless foreign donors gave the region a steady flow of help, it could return to war, they said.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended a 21-year civil war between north and south, was “increasingly under threat and its implementation is badly behind schedule”, they said.

South Sudan came out of the civil war as one of the world’s poorest, least developed regions. It is the size of France but has just 50 kilometres of roads. Eighty per cent of the adult population is illiterate.

While the previous civil war was between north and south, experts fear the south Sudanese will fight each other the next time.

The report says south Sudanese have grown impatient with their leaders’ failure to provide even the most basic services, such as security and healthcare, and are turning on each other more often.

South Sudan saw 2,500 people killed and 350,000 displaced in 2009. Much of the violence has been between rival ethnic groups settling scores or competing for resources.

“There is growing frustration among communities about the slow pace of development and their expectations around the peace agreement just haven’t been met,” Maya Mailer, a policy adviser with Oxfam and a co-author of the report, said in an interview.

Aid groups including the International Rescue Committee, World Vision and Save the Children were also involved with the report.

Hours after it was released, a South Sudanese official said clashes over cattle between two ethnic groups led to the deaths of 139 people on Saturday.

The report suggests that the international community was too quick to think south Sudan was on its way toward steady development after signing the peace deal, when in effect its government was starting with nothing.

Erratic rains, corruption and insecurity this year have shown just how poorly equipped the south Sudanese government has been.

Some critics say government officials have exacerbated ethnic tensions themselves by appointing only people from the Dinka group to positions of power.

“South Sudan’s problems are all internal,” said one south Sudanese government adviser, who insisted on speaking anonymously for fear of retribution.

“If you go to Juba [the capital] and investigate who are the ministers and the civil servants, they all are Dinka, and southern Sudan has about 65 ethnic groups. The people see what is happening, and they are not happy.”