News / Africa

South Sudan's Jonglei State Teeters On Edge

An MSF doctor examines a baby in Pibor, in Jonglei State in South Sudan. People who went into hiding following recent attacks continue to come in for urgently needed medical care at MSF's re-opened facilities.
An MSF doctor examines a baby in Pibor, in Jonglei State in South Sudan. People who went into hiding following recent attacks continue to come in for urgently needed medical care at MSF's re-opened facilities.
TEXT SIZE - +
Nico Colombant

United Nations peacekeepers, community leaders and the world's newest government in South Sudan are trying to quell ethnic violence in the country's biggest state, Jonglei. But new warnings and a lack of resources have analysts fearing violence will continue.

Aid workers say more than 140,000 people have been displaced by the ethnic violence in eastern Jonglei state, which has caused an unknown number of deaths in recent months, estimated at the several thousand.

The most recent attack, in which two herders were killed by an alleged cattle raider, was reported Sunday in the state's Bor county.

An armed Nuer and Dinka youth militia group calling itself the White Army has issued an ominous warning saying that next month it will start new operations to contain rival Murle youth.

Militias from both ethnic groups have attacked and counter-attacked each other since South Sudan broke away from Sudan and became independent last year.

J. Peter Pham, the Africa director at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, says historical rivalries between the cattle herding communities, which had been dormant for a while, suddenly exploded. "The thought of independence, the dream of having their own country kept the various disparate factions together long enough to achieve it and they achieved it relatively smoothly but now comes the hard part which is building a state where there has not been one before," he said.

Ethnic militias were often used and paid by rival sides in Sudan's long civil war.  Without that revenue and with the realization their new country would not be providing them new opportunities, some of the militia groups have conducted cattle raids as a substitute.

Jonathan Temin from the United States Institute of Peace says there seems to be a multitude of factors behind the violence. "The availability of small arms and light weapons certainly makes these kinds of raids more deadly. Another factor here that does not get discussed too often is dowry.  There has been a significant inflation in dowry prices, the prices that a man has to pay in order to get married and because of that inflation men need more cattle in order to get married and that can drive some of the cattle raiding that were are seeing. Then there is also politics which pervades everything in South Sudan," he said.

Temin says politicians trying to gain standing in the new South Sudan have also caused the situation to deteriorate, by using divisive ethnic arguments to drum up their own support.

United Nations peacekeepers and South Sudan's security forces have been criticized for not doing enough to stop the ongoing confrontations. Officials from U.N. agencies, the government in Juba and local Jonglei communities all say they are working hard to help victims of the recent violence, as well as prevent new major outbreaks.

Amir Idris, a Sudan expert at Fordham University in the state of New York, says it is important to put the focus on local power-sharing and development, rather than blaming the rival communities.

"If we do so, we begin to demonize these two communities, the Nuer communities and the Murle communities.  And there is nothing wrong with their culture and traditions, but certainly there are some political and economic issues that need to be addressed by the government of South Sudan and the international community to stop these kind of military confrontations, otherwise this cycle of violence will continue," he said.

South Sudanese immigrant leaders living in Canada and the United States have started a cross-ethnic organization called the Jonglei Peace Initiative to try to help end the violence as well.

In a statement, they also said development projects for all Jonglei communities were urgently needed.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid