Friday, January 13, 2012

The Boiling Ethnic Cauldron of South Sudan

Optimists thought that the birth of South Sudan as an independent nation would finally bring peace to the troubled region. Pessimists said the new nation was divided among too many mutually hostile ethnic groups and civil war was a more likely outcome.

Right now pessimism is winning:
South Sudan, born six months ago in great jubilation, is plunging into a vortex of violence. Bitter ethnic tensions that had largely been shelved for the sake of achieving independence have ruptured into a cycle of massacre and revenge that neither the American-backed government nor the United Nations has been able to stop.
The United States and other Western countries have invested billions of dollars in South Sudan, hoping it will overcome its deeply etched history of poverty, violence and ethnic fault lines to emerge as a stable, Western-friendly nation in a volatile region. Instead, heavily armed militias the size of small armies are now marching on villages and towns with impunity, sometimes with blatantly genocidal intent. 

At the small town of Pibor (above), Nuer fighters recently tried to massacre the Murle inhabitants:
Eight thousand fighters just besieged this small town in the middle of a vast expanse, razing huts, burning granaries, stealing tens of thousands of cows and methodically killing hundreds, possibly thousands, of men, women and children hiding in the bush.

The raiders had even broadcast their massacre plans. “We have decided to invade Murleland and wipe out the entire Murle tribe on the face of the earth,” the attackers, from a rival ethnic group, the Nuer, warned in a public statement. 
Four hundred UN peacekeepers were on hand, but they did little, saying they feared being massacred themselves.

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