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South Sudan (Southern Sudan) is a country situated to the north east wing of Africa. It is endowed with a rich ecological diversity consisting of swamplands, savanna as well as rainforests, home to a variety of species. South Sudan had been part of the greater Sudan until the year 2011, after which it sought to separate forming an independent state. Its population, which comprises mainly of a mix of cultures that are inherently African, ascribes to Christianity and animistic beliefs had been at logger heads with its neighbor, Sudan, which is predominantly Arab and Muslim.
Currently, its administrative area is in Juba. Once the greater Sudan attained its independence back in 1956, from the British, a number of administrative governments that took power over the years found it difficult to stay in power due to their inability to gain widespread acceptance from its diverse constituencies, more specifically within the south (Ayiei, N.p.). As a result, conflicts erupted between leaders of the north whose intention was to foist Islamic rules and law throughout Sudan and the rest, who were against such a move. The second group consisted mainly of those who currently make up southern Sudan. Their rise to arms against those from the north stemmed mainly from the fear that Islamization would lead to marginalization of the non-Muslim population. This fear is responsible for the widespread conflicts of 50s to early 70s and the 80s till the year 2005.
South Sudan consists mainly of Africans who ascribe to Christianity and other traditional religions. The most populous ethnic group is the Dinka which makes up 40 percent of south Sudan’s population. The next most populous group is the Nuer who make up about 20 percent of the population. The rest of the population is made up of Zande, Shilluk, Bari and the Anwak, commonly known as the Anywa. Southern Sudan is not completely devoid of an Arab population as it comprises of a small number of Arabs. Cattle herding forms the Dinka’s economic activity and as such, they are widely spread throughout South Sudan. The other ethnic groups such as the Shilluk practice sedentary farming and are mainly found in the eastern section of South Sudan. The central north east of South Sudan comprises mainly of the Nuer whereas the Bari occupy the south of this country, closer to Uganda (Encyclopædia Britannica, n.p.).
There has been continued debate amongst the Dinka and the Nuer as to whether they share a similar ancestry. Research indicates that these two ethnic groups originated from the same ancestor and had lived together peacefully in the past. Past Archeological findings within the banks of River Nile illustrate an economic structure that shows similarity to that practiced by the present day Nuer was in existence back in 3372 B.C.E. In later years, the Nuer increased in number and thus spread out to their current location. There are historical ties between the Dinka and the Nuer. The Dinka once did occupy areas that later came under Nuer ownership back in the 1800s.
Towards the end of the 1800s, the Nuer spread out to occupy territories that once were occupied by the Dinka. Historical researchers believe the Nuer were caused to move by Floods which explains why they sought new homes. The cause of tribal wars during this time may have been the desire to take control of livestock ownership together with annexation of territories by various tribes. The Nuer, being a skilled community, thought of themselves as being superior warriors. Their weapons consisted mainly of bows, spears and clubs. Their military schemes included preemptive attacks which rendered the Dinka powerless. Currently, south Sudan has a population of about 12 million according to estimates done in 2014(Encyclopædia Britannica, N.p.). Demographic patterns show that this country is made up mainly of a young population with about 40 percent being between 15 to 29 years of age (Encyclopædia Britannica, N.p.). Although this country has a relatively low population compared to its neighbors, settlement is unevenly distributed. A greater portion of the population is settled along river Nile and its tributaries. About 80 percent of the 12 million people in south Sudan make up the rural population. This rural population is mainly found alongside water courses due to a significant lack of proper water supply, particularly over the dry season. The most predominate housing comprises of Tukul, a round mud hut with a grass thatched roof.
South Sudan’s climate is predominantly tropical with alternate dry and wet seasons. These seasons comprise of oscillations of the boundary that divides moist air from the south and dry air from the north. This process involves seasonal movement of tropical air from the north and continental southern air through pulsation. During winter time, winds from the north blow through south Sudan in the direction of the south. Such winds are dry and cool devoid of moisture and do not cause any rain. As a result, this country has a rainy season that spans about 9 months in a year, depending on latitudes. The lowest temperature annually ranges between 60 and 70F, particularly within central and northern south Sudan. The outskirts of this country experience the lowest temperature each year, in the range of 50 to 60F. The highest temperature each year in most parts of the country are in the range of 80 to 90F, although there are some areas such as the north in which temperatures range between 90 and 100F. This temperature range occurs mostly just as the rainy season approaches. More rainfall is experienced within the summer period and differs countrywide (Encyclopædia Britannica, N.p.).
Most parts of South Sudan experience rainfall in the range of 750 to 1,000mm each year. There are other areas, such as those to the west, which experience a lot more rainfall, in the range of 1,000 to 1,500mm yearly. This trend decrease as one moves towards the north or the south of this country. The actual rainfall in this areas falls between 500 and 750mm where as a region to the southeast records much lower rainfall of about 500mm or less.
This country’s vast plateaus and plains drain surface water into the river Nile together with its associated tributaries. The River Nile and tributaries move in the northern direction through the country’s central region. The middle of South Sudan comprises of clay plain, whose center consists of a large swamp that goes by Al-Sudd. South Sudan boasts of two distinct upland regions. The ironstone upland is located between this country’s clay plain and Nile’s watershed. There are inselbergs at its level region. The highest area of south Sudan is on mount Kinyeti which rises to 3,187m above sea level (Encyclopædia Britannica, N.p.).
South Sudan is among the countries that are highly diverse both culturally and ethnically. Conflict among ethnic clutches has continued into the present day and age. The Dinka and Nuer, who are among the largest groups that make up the ethnic map of Southern Sudan, have historically been inhabitants of the upper Bahr Al Ghazi and the Nile region. Each of the two tribal groups did traverse through the other’s territory while seeking water for cattle while on the move between swamp zones. Although there were incidences of inter-ethnic cattle raids, both group worked towards avoiding a full-scale confrontation (Freccia, n.p.).
This moderately peaceful era lasted until 1983. History shows that both groups have the propensity to settle dispute through armed confrontation. This was the case in 1984, the year in which Nuer and Dinka political leaders purposed to confront their differences by going to battle rather than through dialogue. The first and most notable conflict between the Nuer and Dinka began in 1984. This involved two key leaders, John Garang, a Dinka, and Samuel Tut, a Nuer. Although both had south Sudan’s Interest at heart, they differed in ideology which resulted in the death of Samuel Tut (Thomas, 30). Another leader arose and took charge of Samuel Tut’s forces, which comprised mainly of Nuers. This conflict of ideology was confined within the two groups.
Later in 1991, more disagreement led to a confrontation that pitted the two tribal groups against each other. This year saw a high ranking military official, a Nuer, rise up against Dr. Garang. Dr. Garang and Machar’s disagreement also stemmed from a difference in ideology. Machar opted for separation of south Sudan from the rest of Sudan while Dr.Garang dreamt of a unified Sudan. This difference in vision later went overboard taking on a tribal outlook. This resulted in an ethnic war between Nuer and the Dinka. Unlike in 1984, this confrontation between Garang and Machar unfolded to include civilians which led to a lot of suffering. The Dinka experienced much more suffering compared to the Nuers (Thomas, 31).
Since his base was located deep in Nuerland, Dr. Machar led his army into Dinka area at which he initiated killings and looted property. Dr. Machar’s army consisted of subjects from his predecessor, Samuel Tut, those with whom he broke away from Garang, a number from Abdalla’s force and the rest were civilians who took on the name “the white army”.
The latest confrontation which brought about post-independence civil war within south Sudan’s territory arose on the 15th of December, 2015. This was a consequence of a failed attempt to reach an understanding at an NLC meeting that was held in Nyakuron cultural center the previous day. Before this meeting was scheduled, members of SPLM gathered on the 6th of December, 2013 asking the president to convene a meeting of party members. This meeting aimed at pressuring Salva Kiir to find a solution to the tension within his party. The president projected a lot of resistance to which the other party leaders, including Riek Machar, responded with a rally at which they would inform the public of the president’s poor management of the country’s affairs (Metz, 23). This meeting had a representation from all stakeholders. The president blamed was bitter about the SPLM blaming them for South Sudan’s present and historical problems on Riek Machar’s defection. Later that day, the president issued orders to have his deputy’s army disarmed and arm his tribes men, the Dinkas. Riek Machar, who hails from the Nuer Tribe began questioning Salva Kiir’s orders. A fight ensued between Nuers and Dinkas which later turned into a massacre as a result of Nuers being targeted by Dinkas.
Based on reports by the UN and that from victims, the various capitals gradually changes ownership a number of times which has seen fighting progress to date. As early as 21st of February, 2015, signs of war between Dinkas and Nuers were evident as a result of President Salva Kiir’s refusal to take charge of the situation and accept responsibility for the death of 20,000 Nuers (International Crisis Group, N.p.). Due to the effects of this ethnic conflict, a lot of people fled their homes which rendered them migrants in their own country. Reports from HRW documented an incident in which 300 Nuers were killed at a center used as an operation center by security forces. Those who went to seek refuge within the security forces’ base are still within this zone to date. This violence spread to other areas such as upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity, all of which are within the upper Nile area. As a result, the U.S.S and EU issued sanctions against leaders of both factions due to their involvement in the conflict that resulted in mass killings and violation of human rights. The secretary general to the UN, Ban Ki Moon advocated for disciplinary action targeting those responsible for disrupting peace processes.
The IGAD took charge of the conflict through initiation of talks aimed at bringing the warring sides together so as to end the war. These peace talks have not been fruitful as both sides have violated the agreements a number of times (International Crisis Group, n.p.). This has led to stagnation of these talks as a result of continued differences between the warring factions. Critics also blame the IGAD for steering the peace process poorly.
Ayiei, Thon. 'Understanding The Tribal, Political And Economic Aspects Of The Current South Sudan Civil War And Their Complications In Achieving A Peaceful, Lasting Solution'. The New Sudan Vision. N.P., 2014. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
Freccia, Tim. 'Conflicts in South Sudan'. Enoughproject.org. N.P., 2015. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
Jonglei's Tribal Conflicts: Countering Insecurity in South Sudan. Juba: International Crisis Group, 2009. Internet resource.
Metz, Helen C. Sudan: A Country Study. Washington, D.C: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, 1992. 23. Print.
Thomas, Edward. South Sudan: A Slow Liberation. London: Zed Books, 2015. 30-31. Print.
South Sudan. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 01 Nov. 2015 http://www.britannica.com/place/South-Sudan
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