Sunday, May 13, 2012

What's Going On in South Sudan?

Or more accurately-- How crazy am I to be going?

I figured it was important to do a bit of South Sudan 101 to explain the current situation in the region and what I've been studying. The current conflict is just the latest chapter in a long history of tension between the north and the south, and the creation of a new international border has brought new questions and challenges for both countries. That being said, the fighting exists only near the border (some 400 miles away from Juba), and it's very unlikely that it will make it's way very far south any time soon. I'm obviously taking precautions though, and I won't be venturing out of Juba during my trip. 

So, what's going on? The conflict in the two Sudans has roots all the way back to colonial rule, where Sudan’s former British rulers gave Khartoum power over the unified country. The population in the South is mostly African and Christian or animist, whereas the North is predominantly Muslim and Arab. The South incurred decades of discrimination and marginalization, and after years of civil war, they held a referendum and voted virtually unanimously for independence in 2011. 

Tim Freccia/Enough Project

Since independence, violence hasn't ceased between the two Sudans. Increasing tension over oil and natural resources has sparked the most recent bombings and exchanges of harsh words. Of particular interest is the dispute over the Heglig oil fields, which South Sudan invaded early this year. As with many regions on the border, both the north and the south have claimed it as their own. The south's illegal seizure of Heglig earned them a lot of international criticism, and they withdrew troops from the region a few weeks ago. 

As a student studying international relations, I'm fascinated by the complexities of the conflict between the two countries. While it looks like tension along the border won't be eased any time soon, it's impressive to see just how far South Sudan has come within its first year of independence. I think peace is an outright necessity for either country to be successful, and it's important to pay attention to Sudan and South Sudan to prevent further atrocities.

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