SOUTH SUDAN: A Glimpse into the Crisis in South Sudan

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Eastern Africa
S. Sudan
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Human Rights

Following its July 2011 secession from al-Bashirs reign, South Sudan finds itself in complete upheaval. It experiences post-separation tensions with Sudan concerning oil sharing and border management, as well as domestic issues such as human rights violations. While media attention is centered on the topic of oil revenue, as it usually is for stories of economic concern, civil issues must be brought to light.

Along the border that now divides the two states, violence is a constant. In May, residents of the disputed border town of Abyei experienced a violent over-take by the Sudan Armed Forces (ASF), resulting in the displacement of over 100,000 people to South Sudan. Jonglei, another area of concern, bore witness to outbursts between rebel groups and South Sudan's government causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Even as recent as last week, Sudan was accused of orchestrating a violent attack on the border town of Jau. This attack followed shortly after a non-aggression pact was signed by the two governments in Ethiopia.

Human Rights Watch's (HRW) reports on South Sudan cite human rights violations ranging from economic and social rights, administration of justice, to the rights of women.

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees are in the process of leaving Sudan, where their citizenship has been rendered uncertain. A new agreement between the two nations offers South Sudanese residing in Sudan two options: to leave the country as refugees or to stay in Sudan without equal citizenship. The deadline for the former is set for April 8, a nearly impossible date for the relocation of nearly half a million people. The result of the agreement is a large influx of people to South Sudan and a drastic spike in food demand, causing an even more drastic shortage in food supply. HRW finds that “millions of South Sudanese suffer from lack of access to education, health care, food, and water. The government estimates that 47% are undernourished”. The World Food Programme reports that the numbers have actually worsened within the past months, with a jump from 3.3 million to 4.7 million malnourished this year.

Law enforcement and justice administration is far from fair In South Sudan. Extended pre-trial periods, poor detaining conditions and torture seem to be the norm. An illustrating, yet chilling incident was the beating of UN Head of the Human Rights division for South Sudan by the South Sudanese Police in August of 2011. Benedict Sannoh was assaulted by several police officers who mercilessly beat him even while he was on the ground in a fetal position. The attack left Sannoh hospitalized and South Sudan marked with an air of insecurity.

In South Sudan, women's rights are negligible. Often women are not granted the choice of marriage, spouse or the right to inherit property. They are frequent victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment. An unidentified South African woman recounts the trauma of being sold into marriage as a teenager. When she became a mother herself and refused to sell her young daughter into marriage, she was beaten, imprisoned and rejected by her entire community. In South Sudan, all this is accepted.

Following the secession, the United Nation approved an official UN Mission in South Sudan to help further development of the new nation. The UN has been working with humanitarian organization, however the efforts lack resources and are impeded by the inability to gain access to those areas most in need. Not only must South Sudan deal with the violent and economic conflicts with neighboring Sudan, but it must also address important human rights issues within the country. The resolution of these problems is vital for the further growth of South Sudan, but will require both international support and mediation of unresolved civil issues between the two nations.