Wednesday, December 25, 2013

South Sudan: New Nation, Old Trouble

There's trouble in South Sudan: a bit more than what's usual for our world.
  1. "Mediated Political Talks," "Ethnic Divisions," and People
  2. South Sudan: Statements
  3. Hope and Decisions

Trouble in South Sudan

As far as I know, what's happening in South Sudan hasn't been called a war: not officially. Folks are systematically killing each other though, so it's not "peace," either.

What apparently set off this month's conflict was disagreement over who should have won the recent election. That was just the trigger, though. I gather that at least two ethnic groups in South Sudan have been at odds for a long time. That's not unusual, which doesn't make it right.

Maybe it's obvious, but war is not a good thing. People get killed, things get broken. Avoiding war is a good idea. So is working for peace, although it's okay to keep someone else from killing you, and that's almost another topic. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2302-23017)

South Sudan's troubles aren't the sort of thing I enjoy thinking about on Christmas Day. On the other hand, one of my Lord's titles is Prince of Peace - and we've got a mandate to make this a better world. (Catechism, 1928-1942)

I'm not personally involved with anyone in South Sudan, but know about some folks who are:
I think folks in South Sudan need to work out their own way of accepting each other. Meanwhile, many folks there have very serious, immediate needs. That's something we can help with, which is why I included those Caritas International links. No pressure, of course.

I plan to be back Friday morning, discussing an entirely different sort of news.

1. "Mediated Political Talks," "Ethnic Divisions," and People

(From AP, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
"South Sudan crisis: Increased efforts to end bloodshed"
BBC News (December 25, 2013)

"International efforts are intensifying to end the bloodshed in South Sudan, where thousands of people are believed to have died in the past 10 days.

"The UN Security Council is almost doubling the number of peacekeepers to 12,500 in the world's newest state.

"US Secretary of State John Kerry urged both President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar to end hostilities and begin mediated political talks.

"The fighting has exposed ethnic divisions in South Sudan.

"Mr Kiir is an ethnic Dinka, while Mr Machar represents the Nuer tribe.

"The violence erupted on 15 December when Mr Kiir accused Mr Machar, who was vice-president until his sacking in July, of plotting a coup.

"Mr Machar denies trying to seize power...."
I think "mediated political talks" are a good idea. I'm also quite sure that political ambition is just part of South Sudan's troubles.

Phrases like "ethnic divisions" may be cliches, but it's a fact human beings aren't all alike. I like it that way, and think diversity is a good idea. That's real diversity, not the 'my way or the highway' version.

Not everybody sees the world that way.

It's easy, in a way, for me to be tolerant. Nobody's trying to kill me because I'm the 'wrong sort.' I probably had kinfolks on both sides of the Lindisfarne incident, but that was a dozen centuries back now, and not quite another topic.

2. South Sudan: Statements

(From, used w/o permission.)
"UN official says 'absolutely no doubt' thousands dead in South Sudan" (December 25, 2013)

"The United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan said Tuesday that he had "absolutely no doubt" that thousands of people had been killed in violence that threatens to tear the world's newest country apart a little more than two years after it won independence.

"Toby Lanzer made the remarks quoted by Sky News after U.N. investigators discovered two mass grave in the rebel-held city Bentiu in the oil-rich Unity state. Human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told the Associated Press that one grave contained 14 bodies and a site nearby contained 20 bodies. Originally the U.N. said 75 bodies had been seen but later corrected that statement to 34 bodies seen and 75 people missing and feared dead.

"In New York, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to beef up its peacekeeping force in South Sudan. It condemned targeted violence against civilians and ethnic communities and called for 'an immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate opening of a dialogue.'..."
A spokesperson getting statistics wrong in an early statement doesn't surprise me. What's going on in South Sudan isn't a nicely organized ball game, with referees keeping score.

Under the circumstances, I think it's remarkable that the count was correct, and all that needed correcting was to change "dead" to "missing and feared dead."

About the U.N. Security Council's vote, I think it's a good idea. What some diplomats say, thousands of miles away from South Sudan, probably won't make much difference. Still, what they said makes sense: and might encourage enough folks who do make a difference that talking is better than killing.

I'm not a great fan of the United Nations, by the way. But that outfit is the closest thing we've got to Tennyson's 'Parliament of man ... Federation of the world."

Eventually, I hope we will have an "international authority with the necessary competence and power" to stop wars. (Catechism, 2308)

Right now, the United Nations is what we have to work with. For the moment, it will have to do. (June 16, 2011)

3. Hope and Decisions

"South Sudan conflict 'spreading around the country' "
BBC News video (December 24, 2013)

"New evidence is emerging of alleged ethnic killings committed during more than a week of fighting in South Sudan.

"The violence follows a power struggle between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and his Nuer ex-deputy Riek Machar.

"The BBC's Africa analyst James Copnall reports."
BBC News is either taking the usual precautions about not jumping to conclusions, or the "alleged" part of "alleged ethnic killings" has to do with motive: not whether or not folks are turning up dead.

Either way, they're dead. I hope enough folks in South Sudan decide that staying alive and making their country work is more important than killing the 'other' people. My ancestors eventually made that decision: so it's not a forlorn hope.

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