Do we truly understand the conflict in South Sudan?

A man from Dinka tribe holds his AK 47 rifle in front of cows in a Dinka cattle herders camp near Rumbek. The fighting in South Sudan has exposed ethnic rivalry between the country's two largest ethnic groups, the Dinka of Kiir & the Nuer of Machar. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)

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There are those who say what we're witnessing in South Sudan is a political conflict that's degenerated into violence. Others say the political power struggle is shrouding the real issue-- ethnic divisions. But some say at the root of this conflict is the international communities misguided narrative about Sudan and South Sudan.



Shortly after midnight on the morning of July 9th, 2011, the streets of Juba erupted into celebration. People cried out with joy, held hands through car windows and danced under the flag of the new nation of South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan split from Sudan after a long and bloody conflict.

South Sudan rebels forcibly arming civilians, military claims — The Associated Press

Today -- just two-and-a-half years later -- South Sudan is itself at risk of being torn apart by political rivalries and ethnic tensions. The last several weeks have seen a resurgence of violence. The government, which is dominated by the country's largest ethnic group -- the Dinka, is accused of systematically discriminating against other ethnic groups, especially the Nuer.


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A South Sudan army soldier stands next to a machine-gun mounted on a truck in Malakal town, 497 km northeast of the capital Juba, on Dec. 30th, a few days after retaking the town from rebel fighters. ( James Akena/ Reuters)

The Government accuses the rebels of plotting a coup and stoking ethnic hatred. More than a thousand people have been killed and 200,000 have been displaced since the fighting started. Representatives from both sides are now in neighbouring Ethiopia and are expected to begin direct peace talks on the weekend. But despite that, the fighting continues.

Fear Pulses Through Crowded South Sudan Refugee Camp -- The Associated Press

Jason Straziuso is the East Africa Correspondent for the Associated Press. He was just in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. Today he was in Nairobi, Kenya.

South Sudan achieved independence on the heals of the international campaign to end the violence in the region of Darfur, which is still part of Sudan, not South Sudan. Both stories were often brought to the public's attention via Hollywood. Famous actors including George Cloney and Don Cheadle have been vocal advocates for both Darfur and South Sudan.

How Hollywood cloaked South Sudan in celebrity and fell for the 'big lie' -- The Guardian

But critics say the versions of the stories they tell are often over-simplified ... and that this has led to a failure to understand the real issues at the heart of the conflicts.

Daniel Howden covers East Africa for the British newspaper The Guardian. He was in Naousa, Greece.

Jok Madut Jok was the Undersecretary for Culture and Heritage in South Sudan's Government. He left in May. He's now with The Sudd Institute, an independent think tank in Juba, South Sudan.


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This segment was produced by The Current's Naheed Mustafa and Sarah Grant.

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