South Sudan: World's newest nation now completely dependent on others

With civil war, the Security Council changed its South Sudan mission from nation building to civilian protection. Even China is sending peacekeepers.

Andreea Campeanu/Reuters
Women displaced by the fighting wait to get clean water at a water point in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the United Nations (UN) base in Bentiu, Unity State, June 17, 2014.

A version of this post appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own. 

The situation in South Sudan has failed to improve despite a second peace agreement signed on May 9. As the conflict between the government and rebel forces continues, the country is also facing a collapsing economy, a massive increase in internally displaced persons and refugees, possible famine, and a cholera outbreak.

So far the South Sudanese government has proven incapable of dealing with any of these issues on its own.

The country’s economy has fallen drastically in recent months. This is due in large part to its reliance on oil, which accounts for nearly 98 percent of South Sudan’s revenue.

Since the start of the conflict South Sudan’s oil output has dropped by a third from nearly 250,000 to 160,000 barrels of crude oil a day. In order to bolster the economy the government has looked to foreign investors and has taken over $200 million in loans from oil companies.

As the conflict rages in South Sudan, the United Nations and neighboring countries have been burdened with the responsibility of helping the South Sudanese people. The UN now plans to build new camps for displaced civilians in Juba, Bor, Malakal, and Bentiu states. Over 133,000 refugees from the conflict have flooded camps in western Ethiopia.

In Norway, on May 20, international donors committed over $600 million to help prevent famine in South Sudan. The UN, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization have also been working to help prevent the spread of the recent cholera outbreak.

Now, due to human rights violations of the conflict, such as the recruitment of over 9,000 child soldiers by both sides, the UN Security Council voted to change the UN mission in South Sudan from one of nation building to civilian protection. To this end, the UN Security Council also approved the deployment of three battalions of peacekeepers from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda.

Even China has commited to sending a battalion of peacekeepers in order to help protect the people of the world’s newest nation (along with its oil assets).

The South Sudanese government is failing in its responsibilities to its citizens. In fact, it seems that it is counting on international institutions, outside governments, and even businesses to provide for the well being of its people.

However, despite all of the outside help, none of these pending crises will be resolved if the conflict continues. As of June 11, leaders on both sides, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, agreed to establish a transitional government in order to bring peace to South Sudan.

The nation’s future success or failure depends upon whether they are able to commit to this new government and control their respective military forces.

Allen Grane is currently an officer in the Army National Guard and is a former intern at the Council on Foreign Relations.  His interests are in Africa, conflict, and conflict resolution.

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