South Sudan celebrates 10 years of independence

 South Sudan celebrates 10 years of independence

South Sudan celebrates 10 years of independence

KHARTOUM, 08 July: Friday marks 10 years since South Sudan gained independence to become the world’s youngest nation – yet few citizens are rejoicing.

Over the past 10 years, the oil-rich country has been mired in fighting that killed nearly 400,000 people, engrained corruption and a deteriorating humanitarian crisis, while a fragile peace deal hangs by a thread.

“After 10 years of independence, South Sudan’s population doesn’t have much to celebrate,” said Joshua Craze, a research fellow at the London School for Economics who has worked in South Sudan since 2008. “Those hopeful expectations of life in the new state have only delivered for South Sudan’s elite, which has entrenched itself atop the rest of the country,” he added.

Hopes were high in 2011 when after decades of war with the north, the southern South voted overwhelmingly to secede. Salva Kiir, a former rebel leader, was sworn in as South Sudan’s first president, with Riek Machar, another rebel leader, as his deputy. Many South Sudanese who had fled, returned, while the international community poured millions of dollars into propping up the new government.

“[There were] ululations, celebrations, tears of joy, wails of happiness,” recalled Philips Anyang Ngong, a local human rights lawyer who was at the independence festivities but is distraught at what has happened since.

“We raised the flag but what do we have [to] show today, 10 years later?” he asked. “Continued suffering.”

A ‘peaceful South Sudan’

Without clear progress, frustration and lack of trust in the government will grow and fuel violence, say conflict analysts.

“The longer this uncertainty goes on, the more difficult it will be to escape patterns of conflict that are rooted in decades-old problems but found new life in the independent country.

As much as we hope we’re past the worst, that seems far from certain,” said Mark Millar, a policy analyst for the Norwegian Refugee Council in South Sudan.

Even though fighting has been at a lower tempo in recent years, there has been “exponential growth” in levels of conflict since 2018 and incidents are more numerous and frequent, according to a July internal security report.

Last month, South Sudan’s new United Nations chief, Nicholas Haysom, told the Security Council there was “pervasive insecurity” and that intercommunal violence was responsible for more than 80 percent of civilian casualties this year.

Aid workers are being increasingly targeted, four humanitarians were killed and millions of dollars of supplies looted or destroyed, he said. Haysom urged the government to “breathe fresh life into the peace process” and fully implement the agreement, which will eventually lead to elections, he said.

The polls are scheduled for 2023, but many fed-up South Sudanese have called for the two leaders to resign before that, according to a December report from the country’s National Dialogue Steering Committee, an initiative that gathered civilian views across the country.

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