When baby wildebeest are born, they have to be ready to run with their mothers and the rest of the herd within scant hours or risk becoming a predator’s meal. Much the same kind of African birth and infancy faces the Earth’s newest nation – South Sudan. By SIMON ALLISON.
South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is having a traumatic infancy. As if it hasn’t got enough problems – with its rancorous northern neighbour, chronic poverty and underdevelopment and an almost complete lack of modern infrastructure – it’s also facing a low-level insurgency from at least six armed militia groups who aren’t interested in toeing the line set by the government in Juba. These groups accuse the government of President Salva Kiir of nepotism and corruption, and demand that a constitution be written with the consultation of all political parties.
But Kiir’s government received a welcome boost this week when the leader of the largest rebel group, the South Sudan Liberation Army, declared a ceasefire, embracing the olive branch of full amnesty dangled by Kiir on South Sudan’s independence day. “We have discussed and agreed in our leadership council to send a delegation to Juba to discuss with the government of South Sudan so we can reach an amicable reconciliation and agreement,” said SSLA leader Peter Gadet.
But perhaps he should have had a few more discussions, because his gesture of peace was swiftly contradicted by other factions of the SSLA which emphatically denied the ceasefire, and said Gadet spoke for himself and no one else. The SSLA is said to number roughly 10,000 men and is based in one of South Sudan’s oil-rich provinces.
Clashes between South Sudan’s army and the various rebel groups have killed hundreds of people this year, and are an unwelcome distraction from the new country’s many other pressing issues. DM
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Photo: Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers stand in line during the Independence Day ceremony in Juba July 9, 2011. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese danced and cheered as their new country formally declared its independence on Saturday, a hard-won separation from the north that also plunged the fractured region into a new period of uncertainty. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic.
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