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Unrest in the world’s youngest nation

A map detailing where the conflict in South Sudan is occurring and where Plan’s Country Offices are located.

Fighting erupted in South Sudan on December 15, affecting thousands of people across the country.

It wasn’t long ago the people of South Sudan celebrated their new-found freedom. In July 2011, South Sudan became a sovereign state, gaining independence from Sudan, leaving 22 years of civil unrest behind. It was a fresh start – one filled with hope and new beginnings.

But the celebrations have stopped

In July 2013, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, fired Vice President, Riek Machar, and his entire cabinet in an attempt to amass complete power. To complicate matters, Kiir is a member of the Dinka ethnic group, while Machar is a member of the Nuer ethnic group. Immediately, tensions flared in the country, causing full-blown war by mid-December.

As a result, a clash between two of the largest ethnic groups – the Dinka and the Nuer – has put the world’s newest nation at odds. This new conflict has flared, leaving over 500,000 people, mostly children and women, internally displaced since December 15, and an additional 86,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries, like Uganda.

Rocco Blume, Policy and Research Manager for Plan, has been working in Sudan since 1999 and in South Sudan, since it became a sovereign state. He witnessed the brutal war that ravaged Sudan for decades, and saw firsthand the impacts it had on its people.

The way things were

During his time in Sudan, Blume became close friends with a young man named Biar. A husband and a father, Biar understands the impact of war all too well. He was born during the civil war, fleeing home at a young age. Over the years, the war has caused Biar and his family to suffer in poverty, denying him an education and very few work opportunities.

“With no end to the war in sight, Biar and his family had no choice but to create a new life far from home,” explained Blume. Shortly after, Blume also left Sudan, but in 2006 he returned and found a recent peace agreement had ended the war.

“I caught up with Biar who had returned to the south with his family. He had built a small house, owned several cows and now had two more children,” said Blume. “The desperation I had seen years before had been replaced by hope and possibility.”

Unwelcome déjà vu

Today, back on South Sudanese soil, Blume finds himself in a familiar situation. Fighting has erupted in South Sudan, and Biar and his family cannot be reached.

‘For them and millions of others that have lived through the trauma and humiliation of the last war, a new conflict will be all too familiar,” explained Blume. “The hard won gains thrown into uncertainty, the prospect of having to flee your home, not knowing when or if you will ever return.”

The way things are today

As with any conflict, the main priority is to end the war. On January 23, the government forces and rebels agreed to a ceasefire after talks in Ethiopia. In the coming months, the actions that both sides take in their efforts to uphold this temporary truce will decide whether there can be peace for the country.

Plan has been working in South Sudan, including before its independence, since 2006. We are on the ground and aiming to reach thousands of people with food assistance in Awerial, an area many displaced people have come to escape the fighting. Most people have arrived with nothing. They lack access to water, food and shelter.

We’re working in coordination with other NGOs in South Sudan to meet the immediate needs of children and families during this uncertain time.

To support Plan’s emergency work in South Sudan, donate to our emergency relief fund.

The people of South Sudan, like Mary and her three children, have been forced to flee their homes because of violence and conflict with armed insurgents.

The people of South Sudan, like Mary and her three children, have been forced to flee their homes because of violence and conflict with armed insurgents.