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South Sudan: Remembering Ones We Loved and Lost to Conflict

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Deng Vanang

By: Deng Vanang

South Sudan conflict started nine years ago is not only grinding on. It is increasing in votaility as well. In years of no let up in fighting, human casualties and material destruction continue to climb up higher and higher. Victims grow more wearrier and wearrier given accomulated suffering pulled down on them by series of successive conflicts.

1955 to 1972, 1975 to 2005 and 2013 to 2022 make a total of 56 years of painful death and undignified suffering. In addition to insistent cries and moaning for the untimely loss of those we love dearly.

Present conflict entering its tenth year of 2023, the Nuer innocent civilians killed in cold blood mass murder in Juba from 16th to 20th December no longer attracts deserved focus as was the case previously. Reason points to the protracted conflict claiming increasing number of fatalities and immense property loss than when it began. As conflict shifted its parametres and extended to new regional and ethnic frontiers far beyond Nuerland borders.

The shift began in early 2014 when Colo-kingdom got sucked into conflict between what was Dinka dominated government and Nuer armed opposition. Immediately followed by Fertits and other ethnic minorities in Bhar el Ghazel who unreservedly joined Nuer opposition christened SPLM/AIO that eventually grew into a national outfit.

Colo-Agwelek forces under General Johnson Olony Thabo which joined the government from rebelion ever since 2009 changed tact to align with Dr. Riek Machar – rebel SPLM/A-IO led over grievances on Colo-land continous occupation by Dinka Apadang.

In the aftermath of renewed conflict in July, 2016 following an IGAD-mediated Peace Agreement in 2015 in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Central and Western Equatoria were ropped into conflict as retreated SPLA-IO troops led by its leader broke through the region in a back – to – back retreat from the capital Juba.

Presence of SPLA-IO for the first time in the two parts of Equatoria encouraged Lt. General Thomas Cirilo Swaka to defect from the national army Headquarters Bilpam to bush. There he founded his rebel movement,NAS in 2017 in protest to a mindless seizure of greater chunk of his Bari community ancestral land by powerful individuals serving in the government.

With Murle cobra faction under Khalid Boutros and John Kenyi group, a defecting faction from SPLA-IO based mainly in his Pojulu homeland of Lanya joining NAS’ ranks and files.

General Hussein Abdelbagi Akol group in Northern Bhar el Ghazel came into unexpected existence on the back of anti-muslims sentiment in South Sudan, with its impact majorly limited in scope in the above mentioned region.

SPLA and now SSPDF’s Chief of General Staff, General Paul Malong Awan folllowed suit in 2017 after sacking to found South Sudan United Front, SSUF based in his home region of Northern Bhar el Ghazel and a feeble presence in Western Equatoria region.

Dr. Lam Akol’s NDM announced its emergence on the fringes of Colo-kingdom bordering Sudan as General Olony’s Agwelek mightily maintains the stranglehold of the mainland.

General Simon Gatwech Dual and Lt. General Johnson Olony broke away from Machar who joined the government in a peace deal brokered in Khartoum in 2018 to form their own faction SPLM/A-IO Kitgwang in 2022 based in Northern Upper Nile at Sudan border.

Government exploited the split and sent Presidential AdviserTut Kew Gatluak to broker another Khartoum peace agreement early this year between it and the two Generals in an attempt to join shaky peace deal.

It turned out a ploy to lure the duo to Juba in a camouflaged surrender. Government resoundingly accomplished its mission in luring Olony into its open arms as skeptical General Gatwech chose to hold a sway demanding proper impelemntation of their agreement first.

Their differences introduced new phase of violence fitting pro-civil defense forces of Shiluk and Nuer that threatens a renewed nation-wide conflict on a larger scale similar to raging flames of 2013 to 2014.

Not forgetting General Stephen Buay Rolnyang’s rebel SSPM war in unity state where key elements of his forces were burnt alive, a first in the country with poorest human rights records in the region.

Hidden costs of conflct

The war caused human displacement that sent 2.3 millions into refugee camps in neighboring countries . Among them 80% women and children, while half of the whole refugee population is children, with only 8% of the total refugee population living in individual accommodation in the East African region, said UNHCR.

Inside the country, 1.9 millions are internally dispaced and  4.3 millions in dire need of food aid. Besides humanitarian disaster, the nearly 10-year old civil war has caused a number of fatal and yet irreversible effects on civil popultion.

Dramatically and unbelieveably the violent conflict changed conservative traditional values in the country irrespective of ethnicity, region and religion. Wheeled not less than 50% children out of school.

Malnutrition level leading to high mortalityadds up to Social disorientation causing wide spread prostitution never seen and known before in fast-evolving  hisory of the country.

Divorce rate as well as suicide incidents take a better part of vulnerable social groups in the society.

High mortality rate at birth due to an improper healthcare or lack of it. Other challenges are human trafficking incidents in search for an employment in unknown places infested with criminal networks. In addition togrowing number of women in single motherhood, plenty of theft, Juvenile delinquency , high way robbery and buglary rate and generations lost to conflict and famine.

The rest are internal violent displacement causing an immense loss of traditional lands and their inhabitants. As well as multiplying number of street families in urban centres, infectious diseases in couples long separated by conflict and forceful disappearance of loved ones, especially women and children as the result of civil strife and inter-communal abductions.

We still remember and never to betray you  in death and alive.

UDRM/A Forward!

Cde Deng Nyang Vanang Thong

Chiarman and Commnder-In-Chief, UDRM/A

E-mail: dvanang@gmail.com

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