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War, disease and hunger the unwanted guests as South Sudan 'celebrates' independence

War, disease and hunger the unwanted guests as South Sudan 'celebrates' independence
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South Sudan, as the world’s youngest country, is experiencing more than just teething troubles.

As the state marks its third birthday, following independence from the Republic of the Sudan, it is beset by war, disease and hunger, with the f word, famine on the way.

It was never going to be a walk in the park for South Sudan after a decades-long civil war ended in 2005 and left the country impoverished with minimal infrastructure and corrupt political institutions.

Things took a catastrophic turn for the worse in December last year when a power struggle broke out between President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and his then Vice-President Riek Machar, a Nuer.

The president accused Machar of plotting a coup.

At the time both men had support across the ethnic divide, but once the battle lines were drawn the fighting became tribal.

To date more than 10,000 people have been killed in the inter-ethnic blood-letting and 1.5 million have been displaced.

To add to this tale of human tragedy close to seven million people are considered “acutely food insecure,” a polite way to describe at risk of famine.

Hilde Johnson recently ended a three-year stint as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for South Sudan: “South Sudan has been afflicted by three diseases since 2005: the cancer of corruption with the oil becoming a curse rather than a blessing, rule by the gun and not by the law, with impunity among security forces and services, and rule by a self-serving elite, for the elite, and much less for the people.”

In April this year the world got a glimpse of the brutality of the conflict.

In the town of Bentiu, after rebel troops had taken control, a massacre of Dinka took place in hospitals, schools, churches and mosques.

Local radio stations urged Nuer men to rape Dinka women in a blood curdling echo of the genocide in Rwanda.

The slayings prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry to act and a peace deal was signed in Addis Ababa in May.

Although the fighting has calmed, many believe it is the lull before the storm.

To add to the desperate picture the ongoing oil dispute between South Sudan and the Republic of the Sudan is adding to the crushing poverty.

Although South Sudan is marking independence the reality is that it will be many, many decades before the country is self-reliant and many thousands will die before that day arrives.

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