Blog author: Brian Harper
The latest country facing internal conflict and violence is also the world’s newest: South Sudan. According to Al Jazeera, a month of fighting in the country has left more than 1,000 people dead and, according to the United Nations, another 400,000 displaced.
The clash, which cannot be adequately summarized here, manifests itself as ethnic in nature, but there are clear political and leadership failures that initiated and often drive the day-to-day actions across the country. The Dinka, which include President Salva Kiir, and the Nuer, which include Riek Machar, the former vice president that Kiir has accused of treason, have experienced many years of tension and mistrust. As Washington Post blogger Max Fisher brilliantly and succinctly lays out in “9 questions about South Sudan you were too embarrassed to ask,” many cultural, religious and historic factors have contributed to the tragedy, which began when Dinka members of the presidential guard attempted to disarm Nuer members last month. The after effects of colonialism and many years of fighting with the Republic of Sudan, the country from which it seceded in 2011, have certainly played a part.
i-ACT’s work is about Darfur, a region in the Republic of Sudan and thus an area not directly affected by South Sudan’s current predicament.
As Fisher points out, however, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, a militant group that fought for South Sudan’s independence and now makes up its national army, “also fought in Darfur, on behalf of people there who wanted autonomy from the Khartoum (capital of the Republic of Sudan) government. More significantly, both South Sudan and Darfur were huge political and popular causes in Western countries, and especially in the United States. Outrage over Darfur made it easier to pressure Khartoum to allow South Sudan’s independence referendum; it also focused popular and political support within the United States, which proved crucial.”
i-ACT’s work is not political; it is personal. The Darfuri refugees we have been visiting in Eastern Chad since 2005 are people the we know by name. The students we work with in Little Ripples are young girls and boys who want little more than to go to school, play with their friends and live in peace.
We are deeply grateful to the countless people who support our work despite never having met our Darfuri friends. Their generosity reminds us that we, too, must support the thousands of suffering South Sudanese we will never know. In an oft-quoted line from Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This, as much as the historic and cultural strings tying the Darfur and South Sudan conflicts together, causes us to remember South Sudan and to hope and do all we can for their peace.