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Why South Sudan Is Raging

More than 500 people have been killed in four days of fighting in South Sudan. But the problems go much further back.

1. This is the Republic of South Sudan — the youngest country in the world. It has been embroiled in an escalating cycle of political and ethnic-fueled fighting since Dec. 15.


EU Humanitarian Aid

@eu_echo

Updated map of the situation in #SouthSudan as of 20 December: http://t.co/V7SSflkI0Q

/ Via

2. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in a referendum in January 2011. Nearly 99 percent of participants voted for secession, ending decades of fighting, including a 39-year-long civil war.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

3. The conflict was in large part motivated by South Sudan’s political and economic alienation from Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. South Sudan is rich in oil, but one of the least developed countries in the world.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

4. Many also resented Khartoum’s perceived marginalization of South Sudanese identity. South Sudan has more than 60 cultural and linguistic groups; most are Christian, or practice indigenous religions, while north Sudanese are largely Arab and Muslim.

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters

5. The Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) was the main resistance movement in the south against the north. The SPLA was undermined by internal differences over polices and strategies from the start.

Handout / Reuters

John Garang (L) led the SPLA from 1983-2005.

6. In 2005, the SPLA signed a peace agreement officially ending the Sudanese Civil War. The agreement created a power-sharing system between north and south political factions.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

7. When Garang died in a helicopter crash. Salva Kiir succeeded him. Kiir (R) favored southern secession. After South Sudan became independent, he became president.

Andreea Campeanu / Reuters

Kiir ® and former vice president Riek Machar (now on the run) at a memorial service for Garang.

8. After independence, life for the South Sudanese remained unstable. The country struggled to provide basic services, bridge ethnic divides, curb corruption, and tackle grinding poverty.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

9. But the fighting didn’t really end. In the first half of 2011, nearly 2,400 people were killed in inter-ethnic clashes. Fighting between factions left an estimated 900 dead between Dec. 2011 and Feb. 2012.

Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah / Reuters

10. South Sudan’s relations with Sudan also remained hostile. Border clashes and demarcation disputes continued. In Jan. 2012, South Sudan halted oil production — the source of 98% of its revenue — after Sudan imposed high fees for using its pipelines.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

11. The two sides were again on the brink of war and, without oil, South Sudan’s economy was on the verge of collapse. By September, oil production returned after Sudan and South Sudan came to an agreement. Other major disagreements remained unresolved.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

12. Development groups descended on the capital Juba, pictured below, and new roads and schools were built.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

13. This latest outbreak of fighting began on Dec. 15, after President Kiir, of the majority Dinka tribe, accused former vice president Riek Machar, from the Neur tribe (the country’s second largest ethnic group), of staging a failed coup.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

14. Back in July, Kiir had dismissed Machar, as well as his entire cabinet. The move was reportedly seen as an attempt to ease hostilities with Sudan, who disagreed with many of the South Sudanese cabinet members. Critics say Kiir feared Machar as a rival.

Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

15. The next day Kiir, pictured here, arrested 10 leading political figures. Machar is on the run and denies the allegations.

Stringer / Reuters

16. In the three days since, more than 500 South Sudanese have been killed, according to U.N. estimates, and hundreds more injured.

Stringer / Reuters

17. The U.N. is reportedly sheltering more than 34,000 people in its compounds throughout the country. By Tuesday, hours into the fighting, civilians were already spilling out of the U.N. compound in Juba.

Handout / Reuters

18. Witnesses have reported that South Sudanese soldiers have fired indiscriminately into highly populated areas, and are targeting people from Machar’s Nuer ethnic group, according to Human Rights Watch.

Handout / Reuters

19. On Thursday, South Sudanese rebels attacked the U.N. compound in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, killing two UN peacekeepers from India, and injuring a third. Neur rebels were reportedly targeting civilians from the Dinka tribe hiding in the compound.

Handout / Reuters

20. Pro-Machar rebels also took over the South Sudanese town of Bor on Thursday, as the violence continued to spread beyond Juba.

Sub Dharmesh Sangwan, laid down his life fighting bravely against the Rebels. #Southsudan

— ADG PI - INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi)

ADG PI - INDIAN ARMY

@adgpi

Sub Dharmesh Sangwan, laid down his life fighting bravely against the Rebels. #Southsudan

/ Via

21. Amid the unrest, Sudanese officials closed the airport and imposed a curfew. The country’s communication networks were also largely shut down. By Thursday, the Juba airport had reopened.

Handout / Reuters

22. Foreigners have been evacuating en masse with the spread of violence. Many embassies, including the U.S. embassy, have asked their citizens to leave.

RT@BBCBreaking Photo taken inside plane evacuating foreign nationals from #Juba #SouthSudan http://t.co/7FogKcEoy2

— Shaista Aziz (@shaistaAziz)

Shaista Aziz

@shaistaAziz

RT@BBCBreaking Photo taken inside plane evacuating foreign nationals from #Juba #SouthSudan http://t.co/7FogKcEoy2

/ Via

23. The evacuations have been complicated by the Juba airport’s closure and periodic checkpoints. Internet and cellphone connectivity in South Sudan is also limited.

NEW PHOTO: United States Marines evacuating U.S. citizens from #Juba #SouthSudan @mollymhunter @MarkLGoldberg

— NewsBreaker (@NewsBreaker)

NewsBreaker

@NewsBreaker

NEW PHOTO: United States Marines evacuating U.S. citizens from #Juba #SouthSudan @mollymhunter @MarkLGoldberg

/ Via

24. U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed to help displaced civilians with housing, medial, and food support. The U.N. has condemned the violence. Media reports have warned that South Sudan could be descending into a full out war.

PHOTOS: By #UNMISS @UNPeacekeeping soldiers helping displaced civilians in #SouthSudan - http://t.co/PSgYC8Etq1

— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva)

UN Geneva

@UNGeneva

PHOTOS: By #UNMISS @UNPeacekeeping soldiers helping displaced civilians in #SouthSudan - http://t.co/PSgYC8Etq1

/ Via

25. For a country only two years old, the intricacies of the Sudan conflict run deep, involving a host of regional and international actors now waiting to see what will unfold.

Fighting continues to spread in #SouthSudan between the army & rebels as regional leaders try to 'mediate'.

— BBC Africa (@BBCAfrica)

BBC Africa

@BBCAfrica

Fighting continues to spread in #SouthSudan between the army & rebels as regional leaders try to ‘mediate’.

/ Via

East Africa's most prominent cartoonist takes aim at #SouthSudan fighting

— Rawya Rageh (@RawyaRageh)

Rawya Rageh

@RawyaRageh

East Africa’s most prominent cartoonist takes aim at #SouthSudan fighting

/ Via

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