Despite hopes that the split of Sudan and South Sudan would improve conditions in both countries, the situation may actually be deteriorating.
Five Indian Peace Keepers on a UN mission were killed, along with 7 unidentified civilians. It appears that the attacks were carried out by South Sudanese rebels led by a Mr. David Yau Yau, who is believed to be receiving his arms from Sudan.
As tensions mount could there be a serious risk of renewed violence, or is this merely the growing pains of separation?
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Only 1 year ago Sudan and South Sudan were drawn into an armed conflict over the oil rich region of Heglig. Accounts vary from several dozen to several hundred people being killed in the region. Regardless of the actual body count, the conflict seriously destabilized the years old delicate peace process.
Conditions were seeming to improve through 2013 with Sudan and South Sudan both reaching an agreement to resume the flow of oil across their borders. Now tensions are mounting over Mr. Yau Yau’s army and accusations that Sudan is supplying weapons.
The increased tensions resulted in the attack on the UN convoy, which was traveling from Pibor to Bor.
Mr. Yau Yau’s insurrection began after his failed bid to win a seat in the April 2010 Sudanese election. After losing his bid by a wide margin, Yau Yau formed a militia and attacked the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Following negotiations to integrate Mr. Yau Yau’s militia into the SPLA, the conflict appeared to be over, however, in 2012 Yau Yau mutinied and began to lead his soldiers on an offense against South Sudanese forces.
While there is no conclusive proof that Sudan is supplying Yau Yau’s forces, the country is almost certainly still smarting over the lose of South Sudan. Before separation, South Sudan produced some 75 percent of the country’s oil supplies.
When South Sudan separated, Sudan lost a major source of revenues, creating funding problems for the impoverished nation. The Sudanese government has also accused South Sudan of supplying rebels within Sudan.
Beyond the conflict between Yau Yau’s rebels and the military, tribal clashes are still claiming hundreds of lives per year in South Sudan. Conditions remain poor with the economy largely dependent on oil, which supply some 98% of government revenues.
The entire infrastructure of South Sudan is underdeveloped and in shambles, and the country relies on wasteful diesel generators for most of its electricity. Inflation has spiraled out of control, peaking at 79 percent in May of 2012. Still, South Sudan does have rich agricultural resources with fertile soil that has been able to support cattle herding and other activities.
Either way, conditions are poor in both Sudan and South Sudan, while tensions remain high. While UN Peace Keepers and international pressure may be able to keep the countries at bay in the short-term, if conditions and quality of life in both countries do not improve soon the possibility of renewed conflict remains high.
While the world rejoiced with South Sudanese independence in 2011, the last two years have proven that actual peace, stability, and prosperity will require a lot more work.