The South Sudan, formed in 2011, making it the world’s youngest county, is heading down the path that so many other African nations have followed. The violence was sparked last week when President Salva Kiir accused his former Vice President, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup. In response, Machar claimed that the president has been undertaking a purge of his rivals.
As the president is from the Dinka tribe and the former vice president is from the rival Lou Nuir tribe, ethnic tensions and mistrust have risen to a new level. The resulting fighting between armed forces loyal to either has resulted in hundreds dead and thousands fleeing to the perceived safety of U.N bases.
In one U.N base in Jonglei state, 20 people from the Dinka tribe were reportedly killed when thousands of Lou Nuir youth overran the base. Two Indian peacekeepers were killed in the attack.
As fighting has escalated President Obama has ordered American troops to the country to guard the American Embassy and along with United Nations air transport has begun airlifting American and other civilians to Juba, capital of South Sudan, and nearby Uganda.
All American citizens in the South Sudan have been advised to leave immediately.
During one mission to evacuate people from Bor, a town north of the capital, three American military aircraft came under fire, injuring four serviceman. In a separate incident a U.N. helicopter came under small arms fire.
As fighting in South Sudan continues, many increasingly believe civil war is looming. The latest blow to President Salva Kiir’s grip on power came when Bentiu, the capital of Unity state in the north, fell to rebel forces loyal to Machar. The oil rich state borders the Sudan to the north.
The spreading violence has world leaders worried and President Obama has stated that continued violence could cost South Sudan support from the international community.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in the Philippines inspecting damage as a result of typhoon Haiyan, condemned the attack on the U.N. base in Akobo town and called on the president and former vice president to come to the table to find a political solution to the situation.
To add fuel to the fire there have been reports that fighters from the neighboring Darfur region in the Sudan have been crossing the border and adding to the chaos. Sporadic roadblocks have been set up, robberies have taken place and in some cases unconfirmed reports of rape have emerged.
With the bloody events that have taken place during the past week in South Sudan, many are not asking whether the world’s youngest country will descend into civil war, they are asking where will it end? Will the opposing ethnic factions come to a settlement of sort, or will they descend into the hell that was Rwanda?
By Scott Wilson