The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, is in the midst of what possibly looks like an inevitable civil war. The images that we have seen on our television sets, show thousands of people displaced and living in refugee camps. According to the United Nations 78 000 people have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Many of these are women and children.
Sending in peace keeping forces, is always a temporary solution and never deals with the underlying causes. I have heard historians saying that the problems faced by South Sudan is one that is common in many African countries. Which is the imposing of an alien concept of nationhood on an old society based on tribal loyalty. In their view “Africa developed around clan and tribal lines.
Many such tribes had ancestral rivalries and feuds with other tribes. Once you carelessly create a "nation" mixing such tribes you get a perfect storm. Exactly what happened in Rwanda, in Nigeria, in Congo and now in South Sudan”
While I may not agree completely with such analyses, recent reports paint a disheartening picture that labels the violence that is going on in that country as ethnic related. Reports suggest that the Dinka ethnic group of President Salva Kiir, is fighting rebels allied with former Vice President Riek Machar of the Nuer ethnic group.
This sudden outbreak of violence must leave many of us asking the question, how could a country that has just gained independence from over 20 years of fighting, revert back, to fighting against itself. There is no easy answer to this question I believe, and attempting to answer this question, one runs the risk of over simplifying the conflict in that country. However we can try to draw lessons from this conflict.
The first lesson that we can learn from this conflict is that, we have no right to expect a nation birth 2 years ago, to be without challenges of this magnitude. Social cohesion, as we are well aware as South Africans, does not just happen overnight. Building a nation takes time, and it is inevitable at times that there will be bloodshed, this is not to justify it. In the United States of America, over 600 000, of its citizens died during the civil war which took place 80 years after the independence of that country.
This reveals that creating a nation is never easy, but it can be done, with the passing of time, and changing of mind sets.
While we hold our breath and hope that this situation gets resolved soon, we must not make the mistake of forgetting that this country faces huge challenges which need to be looked into by the international community. 98% of the South Sudanese government budget is derived from oil, which according to reports will run out in about 20 years. This issue, I believe unless resolved will lead to serious conflict within the country.