South Sudan’s next generation in a hurry to fight
By admin November 13, 2014

Jikany Nuer White Army fighters, a local youth militia affiliated with the rebels, walk in Upper Nile State


While many men have stayed to fight, hatred has slowly seeped into the minds of the many women and children sheltering in refugee camps that bristle with stories of schoolchildren being gunned down and pregnant women ripped apart. “I used to be a student but now I won’t be one unless there’s peace, so I’m a fighter,” one youth said, stressing the need to be South Sudanese and not a refugee, even if it means dying. Even small children speak longingly of joining fathers and brothers on the battlefields, an all too realizable dream in a war reportedly already involving at least 11,000 child soldiers. Mothers at the nearby Kule refugee camp are just waiting for the roads to dry up so their sons and brothers can head back to battle. In a war that has been marked by unprecedented levels of sexual violence, largely against children, Nyadel, a mother of several children, is willing to sacrifice her 18-year-old son to avenge what she considers the extermination of their people. “Death is normal. I’ll die. He will die. All of us do not need to be here and he can contribute,” she says.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Khartoum in 2011, is the world’s youngest nation. More than 2 million people have fled their homes in South Sudan since fighting erupted in December. The conflict was sparked by a long-standing enmity between South Sudan President Salva Kiir, from the country’s largest Dinka ethnic group, and his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, a Nuer, which quickly spread from the streets of Juba into an increasingly tribal conflict. Around 200,000 South Sudanese have fled to Gambella – a remote rural region in western Ethiopia. More than 600,000 refugees have made Ethiopia the largest host country on the continent, and NGOs have neither the land nor resources to help possibly tens or hundreds of thousands more South Sudanese who are expected to pour over the border in the coming weeks and months. “If there is an influx of refugees now, we will not be able to provide food to those that arrive in the next coming days or weeks,” says Abdou Dieng, country director for the UN’s World Food Programme in Ethiopia. The $10 million a month for the 200,000 current refugees will run out in December.

South Sudan’s rebels have insisted they did not expect the government to respect a truce and agree to a peace plan, despite renewed pledges to end an 11-month civil war. South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei insisted the government was committed to ending the war, which has left tens of thousands dead, forced almost two million from their homes and pushed the world’s youngest nation to the brink of famine. “The cessation of hostilities will begin to be operational today,” he said after the two sides signed off on a detailed plan to pull back their forces, protect civilians, and allow humanitarian access and ceasefire monitoring. “I don’t know about the other side, but on our side we are very committed to the cessation of hostilities,” Makuei said. The East African regional bloc IGAD, which has been trying to broker a peace deal, has given the pair just 15 days to finalize a transitional power-sharing accord. Kiir and Machar signed a ceasefire at the start of the year and several subsequent deals to renew it, but the truces have been short-lived. IGAD, which groups Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, has warned that yet another violation would result in sanctions including asset freezes, travel bans and an arms embargo.

East African countries have stepped up threats that if warfare continues they will impose economic and political sanctions against the government of President Salva Kiir and rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar. The U.S. delegation to the United Nations informed members of the Security Council on Tuesday that it will circulate a draft resolution establishing an international sanctions regime for conflict-torn South Sudan, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. “The resolution will establish a mechanism for targeting individuals undermining South Sudan’s political stability and abusing human rights,” the official said on condition of anonymity. The United States began imposing bilateral sanctions on South Sudanese individuals in May. The official said that establishing a U.N. sanctions regime would demonstrate the world’s resolve in bringing an end to the civil war. The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people in the world’s newest state, caused over 1 million to flee and driven the country of 11 million closer to famine.


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