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Analysis: Is South Sudan dying?

Africa Security News.- South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former deputy, Riek Machar

Africa Security News.- South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former deputy, Riek Machar

In 2011, South Sudan was born on a wave of hope and promise. A little over two years later, civil war is tearing the country apart. What are the roots of the conflict – and can anything be done to halt the slide into chaos?

Two-and-a-half years after independence day, the dream has curdled into a civil war in all but name. A battle of political egos has degenerated into an ethnic conflict that has killed many thousands of people. Tens of thousands more are huddled in squalid camps in fear for their lives. The UN says one month of fighting has set the country back a decade.

Kiir’s increasingly autocratic behaviour sowed division within his governing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), struggling, like so many militant liberation movements before it, to transition to a political party. Last July, his vice-president, Riek Machar, a charismatic and ruthless former warlord once married to a British aid worker, publicly defied him: “To avoid authoritarianism and dictatorship, it is better to change.” Machar and the rest of the cabinet were sacked three weeks later.

Nevertheless, Machar was content to ride the wave and subsequently accept leadership of a rebellion that quickly took on ugly ethnic dimension. Kiir is a Dinka, the biggest group, while Machar is a Nuer, the second most populous.

As peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia go nowhere fast, many are gloomy about the prospects for peace in the short term and democracy in the long term. The conflict appears to be driving Kiir into the arms of Bashir and Uganda’s strongman president Yoweri Museveni, who is providing military support. GO TO SOURCE