Hopes for South Sudan’s Government of National Unity

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Hermann-Habib Kibangou, SJ

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Africa is the youngest continent in the world with its 1.2 billion inhabitants having an average age of 19. Each of its 54 countries has a history worthy of individual consideration. By pure coincidence, this continent is also home to the youngest country in the world.

Located in East Africa, South Sudan separated from Sudan (in Arabic, Beled as-Sudan, or “Country of the Black Men”[1]) after more than two decades of war. A referendum of self-determination took place January 9-15, 2011, and was followed by independence on July 9, 2011. In mid-December 2013, South Sudan itself was devastated by its own civil war. Some observers would say that this was a true failure of a political transition. Its toll was heavy: 400,000 dead, 3.5 million displaced, destruction of the existing infrastructure, consolidation of peace called into question, politicization of ethnic groups, destruction of the nation. Whose fault was it?

President Salva Kiir accused his rival Riek Machar – former and future vice-president, leader of the opposition – of fomenting a coup d’état.[2] Hence the war between Kiir, of Dinka origin, and Machar, belonging to the Nuer ethnic group.[3] This made the country unstable and ungovernable. The situation that erupted in South Sudan in 2013 leads us to ask a fundamental question: Why did the transition fail?

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