Thursday, January 05, 2012

South Sudan Declares State of Disaster, Opportunity for Change

Photo Courtesy of Reuters Blog

South Sudan has recently declared a state of disaster due to increasing violent clashes between rival ethnic groups in Jonglei.  By declaring a state of disaster, aid agencies and humanitarian organizations would be allowed to move in quickly in order to deliver much needed food, medicine and shelter.

Since becoming an independent nation last July, ethnic clashes in South Sudan have caused somewhere around 100,000 people to flee.  Though some reports show that more than 150 people have been killed in these clashes, the country’s Information Minister, Mariel Benjamin Barnaba, can only confirm between 20 to 30 deaths.  He also insists that the area is now completely under government control and he “could guarantee the security of any aid workers who went to the area.”

It is reported that these clashes began as cattle raids, but have spiraled out of control.  Conflicts such as these "cattle vendettas," as well as other clashes between rival groups, are common in South Sudan.  The United Nations says that about 350,000 people were displaced as a result of this kind of violence last year. 

Intercommunal violence like this poses a major challenge for the fledgling government in South Sudan.  Being a newly independent state, the country is faced with the task of establishing an effective system of governance. Furthermore, South Sudan is one of the world's poorest regions.  It has hardly any roads, schools, medical clinics, or other vital infrastructure.  The lack of economic development within the country only fuels instability and leads to a higher rate of clashes like these recent ones in Jonglei.  

Our hope here at The Borgen Project is that by declaring a state of disaster in South Sudan, aid agencies and humanitarian organizations will be allowed to affect the political and economic development in this country.  Not only do these organizations have the opportunity to affect the immediate basic needs of the people of South Sudan, but they also have the unique opportunity to help establish a bit of stability in the region by providing humanitarian aid.

-Ashley Hofferber