As many of you may have seen lately, South Sudan is on the brink of a civil war. Our students and even our founder Jok Nhial are directly affected. This is a trying time for a new nation working through power struggles and old habits. Most of all though, it is about millions of innocent lives affected by instability and fear. Peace talks are currently taking place and we dearly hope they lead to stability. Here is an overview on the current crisis:
Question: What is this conflict about?
Earlier this year the Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar, was ousted from his post in a government reshuffle. A few weeks ago, there appeared to be a battle between some of his supporters and some of the soldiers loyal to the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, in Juba. Factions of the South Sudanese military broke away initially on political lines and then semi-ethinc lines. There is blame to go around on all sides. Since the initial insecurity, the situation has become much worse with over 1,000 dead and 120,000 displaced. Many towns, including Bor, have been taken over by dissenting militias.
Question: Is this about tribal conflicts, oil, or power?
Yes – to all three to some degree. Salva Kiir (the president of South Sudan) is from the Dinka tribe. Riek Machar (the former Vice President) is from the Nuer tribe. Those two tribes have a violent history with a terrible conflict that took place two decades ago. But currently the nation isn’t entirely split on tribal/ethnic lines and at this point the conflict has a lot to do with a power struggle and oil revenues as well. It has the potential of getting much worse though as the Dinka are the largest tribe and the Nuer are the second largest tribe in the nation.
Question: Are there LEP students affected by this conflict?
Yes, although our students are living in Kenya, they are from Alian. Alian is about 15 miles north of Bor town where the majority of the conflict is taking place. When the initial fighting started in Bor some of their family members where in the town and fled. Most made it to Alian by foot or one of two UN compounds in the area. Some hid in the bush for days.When the South Sudanese military kicked the rebel group out a few days after the initial attack the situation slightly improved. A few days later, a large group made up of Nuer youth came down the road from the north through our village to try and retake Bor. The village of Alian fled to the Nile river bank or over the river to a makeshift displacement camp where they are right now.
Question: What is the situation like for civilians around Bor?
As alluded to above, the situation in and around Bor right now is very bad. Since the fighting started, the UN and other organizations have not been able to get aid into the UN compounds (where more then 20,000 people are living) or to makeshift displacement camps across the river. Planes and helicopters have been shot at and aid that has reached the ground has been taken by the rebel groups. Most of the camps have no clean water and nowhere to dispose of waste. There is a very real concern for disease. Most people are afraid to leave these camps as civilians have been violently target and executed on the streets.
Question: How can we help?
You can share the news with family and friends so that the world will not turn a blind eye at this critical moment in the nation’s history. If South Sudan has something going for it, it is that internationally this crisis is front page news. We need to keep it that way. Let us hope that the world invests time and energy to help solve this problem. You can also send thoughts and prayers.
Our friends in South Sudan greatly appreciate your love, concern, and prayers. Thanks for caring at this critical point in South Sudan’s history.