NAIROBI — In mid-May, attackers with machine guns stormed a remote cluster of villages in South Sudan, killing hundreds, according to aid agencies working in the area.
South Sudan National Police Service officers ride a pickup truck while patrolling the streets of Juba, South Sudan, in April. (Alex McBride/AFP/Getty Images)
The violence, however, comes on the heels of the formation of a new government in South Sudan, one intended to bring an end to a civil war that began in 2013 and has cost more than 400,000 lives. The two main belligerents, President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, declared “a new dawn” and that “peace has come to stay,” but many other militant leaders who were jockeying for power were left out of the deal, which was signed in late February.
“The deal could have been the start of South Sudan piecing itself together, but I think the amount of violence that still exists, and that ongoing fighting with groups that didn’t sign it shows how far we have to go,” said Alan Boswell, an expert on South Sudan at the International Crisis Group. “Even if the peace deal holds between Kiir and Machar, you still have violence that can kill hundreds and displace thousands. It exposes the myopia of the peace deal.”
As part of the peace deal, Machar’s rebel army, made up mostly of the Nuer ethnic group, is being integrated into the national army, mostly made up of Dinkas. But militias tied to smaller groups such as the Murle have been excluded from national power long before the peace deal. The Murle and a sub-tribe of the Nuer have fought over disputed land in Jonglei for decades, each accusing the other of cattle raiding, mass abductions of women and children, and attempts at ethnic cleansing.