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.

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“On December 16,” reports Armin Rosen for American Interest, “South Sudanese president Kiir announced that former Vice President Riek Machar, whom he dismissed in July, had launched a failed coup

attempt. Kiir wore military fatigues rather than his now-iconic cowboy hat, the original of which was a gift from then-president George W. Bush.

“As Africa security analyst Lesley Ann Warner has noted, it’s unclear whether Kiir was telling the truth about the coup attempt, but it’s significant that he kicked by harkening back to internal conflicts within the governing Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in the early 1990s, when the SPLM was in the midst of a 20-year-long insurgency against the Khartoum government.

Demography_of_SudanA Sudanese boy (photo by sidelife on Flickr)

“Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, and Machar, from the Nuer, have been at this for a long time. Their grudge, and the ethnic cleavages it embodies, long predate South Sudan’s independence from and they now have the potential to plunge the country into even deeper chaos.

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“Machar has fled the capital and the past few days have brought credible reports of heavy artillery fire and organized ethnic violence.

“There was always evidence that Kiir’s control over the country was basically non-existent,” writes Rosen.

“Travel is very dangerous,” reports Open Doors. “Airlifting students from their remote areas to the center often means refueling in now considered enemy areas. It is a risk most are unwilling to take. Road travel has also become very dangerous as both the army and the rebels have set up roadblocks looking for enemies. Anyone stopped who has the typical features or traditional facial markings of the enemy tribe is in grave danger.”

Open Doors staffers are at risk of being caught in the middle.

“Students from all tribes study together at the Emmanuel Christian Center,” said the Open Doors spokesman. “Bringing together students from these different tribes right now could be considered a provocation. Therefore, teaching is on hold. Teaching at most of Open Doors’ regional centers has also been suspended until further notice. The recent developments in South Sudan are causing much concern.”

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Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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