What Has Happened to the World’s Newest Republic?
After decades of nightmarish violence, the new predominantly Christian nation of South Sudan declared independence with United Nations supervision and help from such celebrities as George Clooney -- and thousands of former refugees known as "The Lost Boys of Sudan." But now, violence rages once more.
“When politicians use ethnic mobilization to promote their agendas,” writes Clooney, “violence can metastasize quickly. The potential for explosion in South Sudan is even worse because of the billions of petro-dollars that have poured into the country, much of which were used to purchase sophisticated weaponry.”
The nation is blessed – or perhaps cursed – by oil wealth. Who will control the oilfields is a prime source of contention.
“At a well-attended investor conference in South Sudan’s capital in early December, President Salva Kiir declared that the world’s newest country was ‘at last safe’ and open for business,” reported Reuters news staffers Carl Odera and Edmund Blair. “It was a bold assertion from a nation that only gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades mired in conflict. It suggested the moment had come to cap a huge international effort to build a state. But it proved spectacularly ill-timed.
“On December 15,” reported Reuters, “fighting erupted that has swiftly spread beyond the capital along ethnic faultlines, exposing the failure of national reconciliation efforts, the limited influence of generous foreign sponsors and the reluctance of rebel fighters-turned-statesmen to give up the tactics of bush conflict.”
“Please continue to pray for South Sudan,” requests the Christian advocacy group Open Doors, “where fighting broke out in December between government soldiers and forces loyal to deposed vice president Riek Machar. Fierce battles rocked Bor last week as the government battled to take the city back from the rebels. On Saturday news reporters were allowed back into the town that has been reduced to ashes. Sadly, the violence has now taken on ethnic overtones and in the process is opening old wounds for this young nation.
“A distraught Open Doors staff member explained that ethnic tension is very high at the moment. Although Open Doors’ Emmanuel Christian Center, a training place for pastors, in the south has not been affected by the violence per se, the ethnic turn of the war is disrupting operations.”