South Sudan (MNN) — It’s time to admit it: on the second anniversary of South Sudan’s civil war, its freedom has been hijacked.
The people of South Sudan were filled with hope as the nation gained its independence nearly three years ago, following decades of war in which 2 million people died and 4 million were forced to flee.
Now, they’re in the same place they were then. There are growing fears that the August peace deal is unravelling. Intense international pressure forced the two sides to agree to the ceasefire, and it was supposed to put Kiir and Machar in a power-sharing transitional government for three years before fresh elections can be held.
Yet, both sides are guilty of repeated ceasefire violations and atrocities, and the arms embargo is nearly worthless.
If you’re lost, here’s what started the whole thing: After the initial election four years ago, a political squabble in the ruling party escalated into ethnic violence within two years. President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka (largest majority group) fired his deputy Riek Machar, an ethnic Nuer (the second largest community).
The United Nations and International Red Cross warned of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe caused by the country’s civil war, now in its third year. Thousands of people have died in the fighting between the government and rebel forces, 7 million are in need of food aid, and 2 million have been displaced.
Despite ongoing skirmishes, the refugees are returning. George Nzomo is Food For The Hungry’s South Sudan director. “People are tired of staying wherever they are. They also want to come back to their countries, to their respective villages so that they can also start their farming.”
People left in droves, so it means they’ll come back in large numbers, too. “Last week, when we met with the government officials, they had plans on putting some reposition for food and also plans for resettlement in areas where they are expecting Nuer people to return.”
Is it safe? Safe or not, people are tired of being displaced. Nzomo says, “This is the time they feel they should come back because of the main agreements which have been there, the aid guards assuring them that things are going to be well. We also feel that we need our people back so that they can build their own nation.”
Many aid agencies have given up and left the country. But FH continues to fight each day to help children and their families in this embattled country. After 14 years of work in South Sudan, FH continues its commitment. Their teams are responding to this crisis, despite considerable obstacles. Violence often blocks the waterways and roads used to reach communities, making air transport the only alternative. Every activity requires lengthy, expert negotiation with opposing sides in the conflict.
More than that, they’re adding a different dialogue into the mix. “The Gospel talks about peace, forgiving one another, and also creating hope for tomorrow. I think people will always understand that there’s always tomorrow,” explains Nzomo.
He goes on to say that because the Gospel rebuilds hearts, it can transform communities so that people can plan for a future. FH is working with communities to increase farming, income, education, and water access, even as the war-torn country struggles to rebuild its communities and markets with the tatters of hope.
Nzomo says this is why they need prayer. “Pray for peace and hope for tomorrow for our brothers and sisters in South Sudan. All we require is prayers for peace.”