South Sudan heads from bad to worse

Map of tribes and oil fields in South Sudan
South Sudan’s civil war is also a tribal struggle over land and oil (source: macpixxel for GIS)
  • Tribal conflicts and a struggle for resources are tearing South Sudan apart
  • Humanitarian efforts based on outdated peace deal inadvertently aid ethnic cleansing
  • Global powers’ eagerness to avoid intervention could allow a Rwanda-scale bloodletting

Political conflict, ethnic violence and man-made famine have turned South Sudan into Africa’s worst humanitarian disaster since the Rwandan genocide more than two decades ago.

This devastating crisis will have deep, long-lasting effects. It reflects inconvenient political truths that can be seen elsewhere in Africa – the residual effects of colonialism, the dysfunction and lack of democracy in post-colonial regimes, and how differences in ethnic identity and access to resources breed political and armed conflict.

South Sudan also poses a test for the so-called “international community” at a time when multilaterialism and value-driven politics are giving way to realpolitik and bilateral diplomacy.

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