Plot twist: Social and funny in real life, awkward on the internet
South Sudan is a difficult place to explain. It’s one of those places where it is impossible to separate the political and the personal, because the dominant themes of every personal life have been shaped by political circumstances. Very few people in South Sudan have hopes, fears, happiest moments, and saddest moments, that are entirely divorced from the conflict that has enveloped the country. The fighting here has been going on for so long, that the root causes of the violence are complex, interwoven, and difficult to ascertain. South Sudan was established as a country in 2011, following a 20 year civil war with northern Sudan. This war was largely a religious and ethnic conflict, which often descended into genocide— most famously in the Darfur region. Millions of civilians were killed.
Three years ago, when South Sudan finally achieved it’s independence from the north, there was a great deal of optimism. But late last year, a political battle between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar ignited a new civil war. Because the two men were from different tribes, the fighting has once again broken out along ethnic lines. Ethnic war is an an especially deadly sort of conflict because it can easily spill over into civilian populations.
Fighting in the new civil war is largely between the Dinka and the Nuer, South Sudan’s two dominant tribes. Many of the posts from the next few days were collected at an Internally Displaced Persons Site within the UN compound in Juba. The people in these posts are members of the Nuer tribe. When fighting broke out, they stormed the gates of the UN to escape an unfolding massacre at the hands of Dinka fighters. Over the course of a few days, thousands of Nuer were gunned down in the capital city, where they represented a significant minority.
In other parts of the country, Dinka were killed with equal indiscrimination in heavily Nuer regions. I provide this context only to make clear that this is not a story of victim vs. aggressor. But rather the latest outbreak of violence in a new country with a troubled history that is filled with violence, distrust, and racial animosities. But South Sudan is also a country filled with millions of civilians who are desperately, and with the greatest difficulty, trying to transcend this history and establish a society based on democratic and equalitarian ideals. But burdened by decades of resentment, revenge, and almost ceaseless fighting, it is proving to be an extremely difficult climb.
if this isn’t the best thing you’ve seen all day then I don’t know what to tell you