Conflict Spreads in South Sudan

by Gerry Lynch last modified 28 Sep, 2015 07:11 PM

Despite ceasefire agreement, conflict spreads to west of country for first time

Conflict Spreads in South Sudan

Combatant in South Sudan with G3 rifle. (Source: Steve Evans - Flickr; licensed under Creative Commons 2.0)

Despite a peace agreement being signed, South Sudan’s 21 month old war has not yet ended, and may be spreading geographically. At present, 2.2 million of South Sudan’s 12 million people have been displaced, a quarter of them outside the country, and 4.6 million people are defined by the UN as ‘severely food insecure’. 

Civil conflict between political factions broke out in the country, the world’s newest independent nation, in December 2013. Despite the signing of a ceasefire and “Compromise Peace Agreement” between the main parties in August, fighting returned to some parts of the country within a matter of weeks. 

The situation varies between regions. In the capital, Juba, the ceasefire has held so far; in contrast, an outbreak of serious fighting in Western Equatoria state represents a geographical spread of a conflict which had so far largely been confined to the centre and north east of the country. Until the past few weeks, much of the west had remained peaceful. 

Reports on the internet suggest fighting between heavily armed government forces and local people in parts of the west began around a fortnight ago, concentrated in parts of the Dioceses of Lui, Wounduruba and Mundri. 

The Bishop of Lui, the Rt Revd Stephen Dokolo, wrote as follows in an e-mail to international supporters of his Diocese. 

“The current situation in the Diocese of Lui is still not good and there is need for more prayers and support with relief assistance.

“This current crisis has not only affected the Diocese of Lui but it has also affect the newly created Diocese of Wounduruba [...] and the Diocese of Mundri. The people in all these affected dioceses are already displaced from their homes and currently suffering because of lack of basic needs for example food, water etc.

“Today our partner at Lui Hospital, the Doctors With Africa CUAMM, has evacuated all their staff from Lui to Juba with help of UN, but the students at Lui Nursing school are left helpless.

“At the moment the road between Lui and Juba is closed and we will travel back to Lui as soon as the road is open.” 

Canon Ian Woodward, Acting Chair of the Sudan Link Committee, made the following comment on recent incidents: “This a very sad development for the people of South Sudan, where after long and hard negotiations for a ceasefire and peace agreement, the conflict has moved into Western Equatoria, which has until now been almost free of violence. 

“It comes at a time when government forces are leaving Juba, in keeping with the provisions of the ceasefire and peace agreements. Sadly, however, some government forces in other parts of the country are acting in breach of those agreements.” 

“We continue to work with The Episcopal Church’s Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the British government. Our American partners, AFRECS, are also working with their State Department. It is encouraging that British forces are now to be deployed in a support role to the UN mission in South Sudan, given their long experience of this type of operation. 

“I urge church people in the Diocese to pray for our partnership and all the people in the Sudans. We continue to work with Christian Aid on humanitarian projects. We pray that the Episcopal Church with the South Sudan Council of Churches will use their influence to demonstrate the peace that the Christian Churches and all the people of South Sudan seek. 

“We recognise the challenge that traditional tribal loyalties present in forging a united nation only four years after independence. We wish to encourage the churches in the important role they play in transcending those tribal divisions.”

Learn more on the Salisbury-Sudan Link pages.

Facts about South Sudan

  • The world's youngest independent country, gained independence on 9 July 2011 after more than half a century of stop-start conflict with Sudanese government forces. The South Sudanese were subject to widespread atrocities and human rights abuses.
  • Population 12.3 million; has a fifth of the UK's population but around 2.5 times the UK's area.
  • There are 60 ethnic groups indigenous to South Sudan; the Dinka (35% of the population) and Nuer (15%) are the largest. Christianity has spread widely over the last 25 years, in particular, and recent estimates are that around 61% of the population is Christian, 6% Muslim and 33% adherents of traditional African religions.
  • Although oil and mineral resources have raised the nominal GDP to around the African average, little of that wealth reaches the population. Decades of neglect by the government in Khartoum meant that at independence, there was little existing infrastructure or economic development and South Sudan has the highest maternal mortality and female illiteracy rates in the world.

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