South Sudan Conflict Narrative
May 2, 2014
The country of Sudan (which gained independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956) was wracked by two civil wars spanning 1955 to 2005, where Southerners were fighting for a secular government (end to sharia law), and the right to self-determination. The 2005 peace agreement was brokered with the help of the US, UK, and Norway. A regional government of Southern Sudan was formed following the 2005 peace agreement, which became the Republic of South Sudan after the referendum, where 99% voted in favor of independence in 2011.
The north still retains the name The Republic of Sudan. It is lead by a fundamentalist Islamist government that persecutes the Episcopal Church, and other Christians. Sudan has been embroiled in internal conflicts since fighting began in Darfur in 2003. Since June of 2011 the government of Sudan is in active combat with rebels, and against civilians in all of its states which border South Sudan (Darfur, South Kordofan, Blue Nile), where people are also fighting for self-determination. More than 400,000 people have been displaced by that conflict, many of them sheltering in the regions of South Sudan now in conflict.
The Government of South Sudan faced many challenges starting up: the ability of the government to enact and enforce laws, charges of corruption and mismanagement, as well as small rebel groups and bandits including the LRA, engaging in conflict. President Kiir dismissed his Vice President and ministers in July 2013, showing division in the ruling party. This divide between the President and Vice President boiled over into violence on December 15, 2013, when a disagreement broke out amongst soldiers in the capitol, Juba, which quickly spread through the military in Juba. Some of the killing that went on was along tribal lines, and quickly spread to regions outside the capitol.
The conflict has been going on for five months now. Several different rebel groups are fighting against the Government of South Sudan for control of rural areas and key cities. There is evidence that Sudan is arming these rebels to de-stabilize the South. The state capitols of Bor, Malakal, and Bentiu have switched hands several times and suffered terrible destruction and massacre. Tens of thousands have been killed. 1.2 million people have been displaced. There are 4.9 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance, and because the conflict is increasing during the planting season, there is real danger or widespread famine affecting 7 million people.
The Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan, remains a united member church of the Anglican Communion, with 31 dioceses, and over 2 million members. ECSSS as well as the Sudan Council of Churches were an instrumental part of bringing about the peace agreement in 2005. The church is one of the only credible institutions left standing during this conflict. Already ECSSS has played a role in the relief effort, bringing life-saving assistance to tens of thousands of displaced people, as well as offering them a place to shelter. The church is planning an ambitious peace program, and needs the support of partners around the world to fund their work, and support them in advocacy. If the church is going to play the crucial role in changing the culture of war into one of peace in South Sudan, it must be adequately funded to do so.