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South Sudanese President Riek Machar is due to deliver a speech on Friday morning on the occasion of the ten years of the independence of his country which remains plagued by violence, corruption and humanitarian urgency. An anniversary that the population is called to celebrate in private, officially because of the Covid-19.
South Sudan joyfully celebrates Friday, July 9 its first decade of existence, marked by a bloody civil war that has plunged the youngest country in the world into a cycle of violence and a serious humanitarian crisis.
South Sudan officially became the 193rd state in the world on July 9, 2011, after decades of conflict to emancipate itself from northern Sudan. But the jubilation and hope that had engulfed the streets of the capital Juba that evening of 2011 are long gone.
In December 2013, the country sank into a bloody civil war, which in five years left more than 380,000 dead, displaced around 4 million inhabitants – or a third of the population – and which plunged it into a serious humanitarian crisis.
A peace agreement was officially signed in September 2018 between President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar and the two men rule the country – in a fragile cohabitation. The first as president and the second as vice-president.
But since then, despite its significant oil resources, South Sudan has not moved forward. The situation has even worsened: the country is plagued by community violence, a deep economic crisis marked in particular by galloping inflation and has experienced “the highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition since independence”, according to the UN.
At least 60% of its population is food insecure, including 108,000 people at risk of famine, according to the World Food Program (WFP).
“The first ten years of the history of this young country have been marked by a lot of suffering,” said Thursday in a statement the United States, Great Britain and Norway, which had sponsored the negotiations, by regretting that “the promise of peace and prosperity represented by independence has not been kept.”
A race and a speech
The country has not officially celebrated its independence since 2014. This year, the authorities ordered that the population celebrate this day in private, officially because of the Covid-19.
President Kiir also invoked on Wednesday international sanctions which he said “impoverish” South Sudan and deprive the state of revenue. “This is why we will not be celebrating the tenth anniversary the way people would have liked,” he said in a Kenyan television interview. He is due to deliver a speech on Friday morning, broadcast on state television and radio.
The only public event planned is a 10 kilometer run in Juba, dubbed the “Great South Sudan Run”.
Initially announced, the very symbolic swearing-in of members of the “reconstituted” Parliament, whose composition had been announced at the end of May, was postponed, without further details. This “reconstitution” of Parliament, according to a composition negotiated between the signatories of the 2018 agreement, is part of a series of measures planned to avoid a new war.
Most of these provisions, including the creation of a “unified” army of forces which clashed during the civil war, have not yet been implemented.
Weak institutions, pervasive corruption and growing poverty have notably led to the explosion of inter-ethnic violence and crime in many areas beyond state control.
According to the UN, more than 80% of the civilian victims recorded in 2021 were affected by intercommunal violence or acts of community militias. Aid stocks and humanitarian personnel are also targeted: seven aid workers have been killed this year in the country.
“Almost three years since we welcomed the signing of the agreement, many tasks remain unfinished. The tangible benefits of peace are not being seen by ordinary citizens,” lament the United States, Britain and Norway. For them, “the great challenge facing South Sudan now is to regain the sense of unity, strength and hope that prevailed ten years ago.”