The situation in South Sudan

For many decades, Sudan has been a country marked by the war. There is a high potential for conflict in central issues such as political power, access to oil deposits, tribal and religious affiliation, which is repeatedly discharged in violent struggles. Mostly, militant rebel groups face a no less violent government, all of which are trying to assert their devious interests at the expense of the civilian population. The second civil war that broke out in 1983, in which the rebel group SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) fought for autonomy in the southern regions of Sudan, ended in 2005 with a peace agreement. In 2001, a referendum contractually agreed actually led to South Sudan’s independence as a sovereign state. The rebel group, now renamed SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement), became the official ruling party of the newly established state. SPLM-Leader Salva Kirr was named president, his comrade-in-arms Riek Machar as vice president. However, the hope of a non-violent future could not be fulfilled.

Scene of war in South Kordofan

Especially the oil-rich state of South Kordofan, which has officially been part of (Northern) Sudan since the state devision, continues to be the scene of military confrontations. Convinced of the affiliation of South Kordofan to South Sudan, several rebel groups merged together in 2011 to form the SFR (Sudan Revolutionary Front) and have since been fighting fiercely with the North Sudanese government army lead by Omar al-Bashir. Countless civilians flee from ground combats and nationwide bombings to the caves of the Nuba-Mountains, which extend over the entire state.

In Lwere, a village in the middle of the Nuba-Mountians, Cap Anamur has been operating a hospital. Our medical professionals have been treating civilians and providing them with food here and at four other medical facilities within a radius of 100 kilometers.  With a „Feeding Centre“ for malnourished children and special vaccination programs, we take care of the exhausted and often traumatized people on site. December 2013 alone, we treated over 9000 patients. We were able to take care of almost 500 women during their pregnancy and to provide several thousand people with food rations.

We receive food and medications mainly through our supply routes that lead from the southern Sudanese state of Unity to the Nuba-Mountains. Tens of thousands of civilians, mostly members of the Nuba people, have already fled south along these routes, to escape the dangers of war. Many of them stay there in the Yida refugee camp. However, these people are not safe here either.

South Sudanese power struggles

While refugees in Yida are striving for normality in their lives, a second conflict breaks out in mid- December 2013. This time, on the territory of South Sudan. In the middle of last year, there was already a break between the South Sudanese president Kiir and vice president Machar. Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup, released him from the government and imprisoned about a dozen of his followers.

As the leader of an SPLM-arm sympathizing with him, Machar finally tries to regain his power by force. Since both opponents belong to different ethnic groups – Kiir is one of the Dinka, Machar is one of the Nuer – the conflict is also fueled by this smoldering tribal feud. Despite thousands of victims, Machar has been fighting the government army in his own country since mid-December. On the opposite side, Kiir receives military support from the Ugandan army. Starting from the capital Juba, the conflict quickly spreads like a wildfire across the country and also affects the state of Unity.

Again, people in the local refugee camp Yida are in mortal danger. By mid-January 2014, the fighting had spread so far that the routes connecting Unity and the Nuba-mountains were under attack. Therefore, the citizens of the camp have a poor choice: they can either stay in the southern Unity war zone or flee along the dangerous route back to the Nuba-mountains, i.e. the northern war area. This hopeless situation has a traumatizing effect, especially on children.

Conflict with open end

This second conflict also has considerable consequences for Cap Anamur’s aid project. The food and medication deliveries to our medical centres in the Nuba-mountains are missing, vaccination programs have to be stopped. It is becoming increasingly difficult to care for our countless patients. While the supply routes are cut, the bombings by the North Sudanese government continue. After this long period of conflicts, people in the Nuba-mountains are tired and want nothing more than an end to the wars. They want to return to their villages and cultivate their fields.

On January 23, 2014, negotiations between representatives of Kiir and Machar in Ethiopia did achieve a provisional ceasefire.  An actual relaxation of the situation, however, is not in sight. While Machar does not want to end conflict until his imprisoned followers are released, Kiir refuses to comply. All parties involved in this war meet with great distrust. While the International Criminal Court is examining the extent to which al-Bashar, Kiir and Macha have been guilty of crimes against humanity in the long series of conflicts to date, civilians cannot expect any peace. The situation in the Nuba-mountains remains extremely uncertain.