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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

South Sudan – a tragedy forgotten

The international community must act now to save the country

Large parts of the country face starvation in what the United Nations described as the world’s worst hunger crisis.Beatrice Mategwa / UNMISS via AP
Large parts of the country face starvation in what the United Nations described as the world’s worst hunger crisis.Beatrice Mategwa / UNMISS via AP

As the global community focuses on defeating ISIL, the Syrian conflict, the Yemen war and the refugee crisis on the Mediterranean, there is one tragedy that seems to have escaped attention. It is happening in the youngest member of our international community.

On July 9, 2011, the world watched as residents flooded the streets of Juba to celebrate the birth of their new nation and their new citizenship as South Sudanese. It was an achievement borne of years of conflict and the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. But this optimism proved fleeting. For the country’s 12 million people, that moment of possibilities hitherto unthinkable has descended into a despondency over the return of an all-too-familiar conflict. No wonder then, that for the second year in a row South Sudan refrained this month from any official celebrations to mark the anniversary of its birth.

Just two years after independence, the country plunged into civil war as president Salva Kiir accused Riek Machar, his former deputy, who he sacked earlier that year, of plotting a coup. The unfolding of events since then would indicate that this is a war and a national disaster predicated on the rivalry between two men who have failed to put the interest of country before self. Tens of thousands have been killed by outright violence and the diseases that follow conflict. Nearly 4 million people have been displaced; children have been robbed of their childhood and press-ganged into serving as fighters. Women have suffered the tragedy and misery of rape by soldiers and militia members. Large parts of the country face starvation in what the United Nations described as the world’s worst hunger crisis.

Too often, international response to disasters of either the natural or man-made variety has been too late or too feeble. Syria and Somalia are examples of both kinds. Today, South Sudan needs help. Let us hope the world will be neither late nor lacking in vigour.