South Sudan in peril

Back in July 2011, after a long civil war, South Sudan split from Sudan to become an independent country. However, even though statehood was achieved and a new country was born, the efforts to transform South Sudan into a proper nation-state seem to have come to a standstill.

Is South Sudan a failed state? Is the country on the brink of collapse?

Ever since its formation in 2011, South Sudan has been trying hard to find its feet, with extremely disappointing results.

To begin with, in spite of the oil resources, South Sudan’s economy is nothing to be proud of. Financially, the country is shattered and one blow short of collapse. Additionally, services such as public health and progress are unheard of. Even more importantly, South Sudan currently suffers from deep-rooted corruption which makes growth unlikely and worsens matters for its residents.

Sadly, gun battles have become common in South Sudan. Due to such unrest, hundreds have been killed, whereas thousands have been forced to seek refuge in bases established by the United Nations.

The two major groups at the heart of this violence are led by former rebels who once fought together for the independence of South Sudan.

President Salva Kiir, who comes from the powerful ethnic group named Dinka, sacked Vice President Riek Machar in July 2013, accusing him of organizing coups against his government. Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe (the second largest ethnic group after Dinka), in turn accused Kiir of trying to establish his dictatorial control over the entire country.

What began in July as a conflict of political ambitions has now led to country-wide unrest. The South Sudanese military too seems to be taking sides: one section remains loyal to Kiir, whereas the other group has pledged allegiance to Machar. Bentiu, an important city and a provincial capital, was captured by army units loyal to Riek Machar, thereby implying that unrest has transformed into full-fledged civil war. It is worth noting that Bentiu also happens to be the country’s most oil-rich region.

As a result, almost all the foreign governments, especially the U.S., Britain, Uganda and Kenya, have organized special evacuation flights to pull out their nationals from the war-torn country.

South Sudan was formed by partitioning Africa’s largest country, and this was justified as a recognition of the mutual aspirations of the South Sudanese people and their right to prosper without any hindrances. Apparently, those in favor of South Sudan have now been silenced in the harshest manner possible.

The country is marching towards failure, and there seems to be no cure. A military power grab, or a motion in favor of Machar (who has hinted at the formation of a military government), kills all possibilities of a democratic setup in the country, whereas a nod to Kiir results in additional unrest due to his vicious execution of political opposition.

Ironically, the resultant northern state of Sudan was described as a potential doomed country by supporters of South Sudan. While Sudan now hardly has any oil resources and is being forced to rely on its agrarian economy, it has managed to prevent its broken house from crumbling into pieces. South Sudan does not have Darfur famine in its resume: instead, the tagline describes it as a failed state that could not remain peaceful for even two years.

At this junction, one is forced to question: was breaking up Sudan really a wise thing to do? As far as I get it, an undivided Sudan would have been better off. Attempts should have been made to quell the southern rebels and bring prosperity to the entire undivided Sudanese country as a whole. Sadly, we decided for the rather questionable choice of creating two countries, and the outcome is far from praiseworthy.

Bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History. He writes for several print and online publications. You can email him at sufyanism@gmail.com