Conflicts & War

South Sudan: a young country haunted by old wounds

By Paul Moraga

Juba, Feb 10 (EFE).- South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, is a wounded nation after a devastating civil war.

Back in 2011, thousands of people celebrated their long-fought independence at the John Garang Memorial Park in the capital Juba, where South Sudan proudly hoists its national flag.

But now, it looks more like a military barricade with soldiers preventing access and prohibiting photographs.

Juba is a city founded by people who came from afar – refugees who grew up abroad and peasants who fought in rural areas – to build a future for themselves.

For them, South Sudan’s independence was a new opportunity after enduring decades of war with the central government in Khartoum.

But that hope was shattered just two years later when South Sudan was plunged into a brutal civil war after fighting broke out between soldiers who support the country’s president Salva Kiir and forces loyal to his former deputy, Riek Machar.

But the clashes are still taking place in some northern regions, despite the fact that the warring sides agreed to form a coalition government in 2020.

South Sudan is experiencing its worst humanitarian crisis, the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned.

About 8.3 million South Sudanese people (66%) are in need of aid to meet their basic needs, according to UN estimates.

Juba is the capital of a country rich in natural resources, with one of the largest oil reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa.

However, most of it is still untapped and the South Sudanese have not yet benefited from these resources.

“We are tired,” activist James Sekwat tells Efe.

“We were born in a war, we have grown up in a war, and some of us have even had children in a war. How long will this situation last?”

Sekwat belongs to AnaTaban, a South Sudanese art group comprising painters and rappers among others, that is dedicated to bringing peace to the fragile state.

“We want to create a space where young people can raise their voices, express their concerns and say what they think,” adds Sekwat.

In recent years, atrocities such as massacres and mass rapes have been committed in the name of ethnic hatred.

AnaTaban, meanwhile, is using art to push back against the violence. They try to convince young people that they hold the fate of their country in their hands and that they should work together toward a better future.

“The political elites have manipulated the communities to fight against other communities,” Manesseh Mathiang, one of AnaTaban’s founders, explains to Efe.

“But the citizens are tired of that. Now, the South Sudanese are not willing to be deceived again. The leaders try to divide the people with tribal politics, but we want to remain united,” he says.

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