R.Looking back, it was a joy that only lasted for a short time. Ten years ago, on July 9, 2011, South Sudan achieved the state independence it had longed for. People celebrated on the streets, and the new state met with a lot of international sympathy. Five days after its establishment, the Republic of South Sudan became the 193rd member of the United Nations.
The separation of the predominantly Christian-animist south from the predominantly Muslim-Arab Sudan was preceded by a decade-long struggle for independence, which was mainly led by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). But it was mainly thanks to the support of the United States that a peace agreement was reached in 2005 and finally an independence referendum in January 2011. In it, 99 percent of the nearly four million voters spoke out in favor of independence.
From the beginning, conflicts weighed on the young state
Even when it was born, the youngest country in the world was faced with various problems: On the one hand, there were unresolved border issues between the new South Sudan and the old, smaller Sudan, not least of which were about the rich oil reserves. Tens of thousands of people were displaced as a result of fighting in the 2011 transition period alone.
But internal conflicts – in some cases between different ethnic groups – also quickly came to light. At the end of 2013 they led to a civil war between the faction of the President, Salva Kiir, and that of the former Vice-President, Riek Machar.
The civil war plunged the poor country – despite its oil resources – into chaos and misery. Armistice agreements were signed with great regularity and just as reliably broken immediately. Many foreigners left the country while the UN strengthened the UNMISS blue helmet troop.
It is estimated that at least 400,000 people had died by 2018. Around four million people have been displaced from their homes, and many have fled the country. The UN documented numerous atrocities against the civilian population, especially women and children. There were also floods and famine.
The fact that a peace treaty was signed in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in September 2018 and that Kiir and Machar formed a government of national unity in 2020 does not change the fact that South Sudan is considered a failed state. 8.3 of the approximately 13 million inhabitants of the country are dependent on humanitarian aid. However, the state cannot help much, so the people are dependent on the support of international aid organizations. The economy is not getting off the ground due to the rampant corruption. And fights escalate again and again, often in the course of quarrels over cattle and pasture land.
The corona pandemic has exacerbated the crisis. “The resilience of the population is crumbling,” said Eric Alain Ategbo, who works for the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF in South Sudan, recently in the Süddeutsche Zeitung about the situation in the country. The dreams of 2011 were long gone.
The photographer Daniel Pilar, who has been photographing political developments in numerous countries around the world for the FAZ for many years, looks back at the historical moment in his pictures. And he filled out our questionnaire.