Photo by Tim Freccia
The civil war in South Sudan that began on December 15, 2013, shows no sign of abating. While the United States threatens to slap increasingly strict sanctions on anyone who stands in the way of the overarching concept of “peace,” Riek Machar’s forces control much of eastern South Sudan.
After a long wait for military supplies from Khartoum, Nuer rebels have seized the oil-producing areas in Bentiu. Malakal was lost and has been won back again, the oil areas in Upper Nile are under attack, and Jonglei is firmly under Machar’s control.
Secret training camps outside Khartoum are preparing more military units to head south in support of the White Army. The UN estimates that more than 17,000 people, mostly Nuer, have been murdered, though the true figure is likely much higher considering the many bodies dumped into the Nile.
As of press time, President Salva Kiir still sits defiant in the capital of Juba but is desperately looking for sponsors as the flow of oil has been turned off once again. Following our visit with Machar, a few journalists have managed to catch flights on relief planes and interview him. He mostly gives canned responses under the shade tree, repeating his demands, while Angelina Teny works for peace agreements in Addis Ababa and Nairobi. None of the journalists who have met with him since our trip have received Machar’s permission to cover the White Army in action. After the atrocities they committed in Malakal, its members have been ordered to undergo training of one sort or another.
In the meantime, the civilians still suffer. The UN estimates that it will need $1.27 billion to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Right now, it is a billion short of that goal. Meanwhile, 3.7 million South Sudanese are at risk of famine, with a million displaced from their homes since the violence broke out.
The next incarnation of civil war in South Sudan is finally being termed as such in headlines, articles, and op-eds. The situation was described by an April editorial in the New York Times as “the worst starvation in Africa since the 1980s, when hundreds of thousands perished in Ethiopia.”
Machot is back to work at Costco. He’s looking for someone to publish his memoir, and a sponsor for a return trip to his birthplace so he can continue to save South Sudan.
If you would like to support groups that are actively working inside rebel areas and other parts of the country, please contact one of the organizations below.