South Sudan marks another independence sans celebrations

There were no official festivities for the second year in a row to mark the independence anniversary for the world's newest nation due to the ongoing civil war that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced the third of its population.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Women carry sacks of food, airdropped by the World Food Programme and distributed by the NGO Oxfam on July 3, 2017 in Padding, Jonglei, South Sudan.

South Sudan on Sunday marked its sixth independence anniversary without any festivities due to the ongoing brutal and destructive civil war in the country.

A third of the population of the world’s newest nation has been forced from their homes creating one of the world's worst refugee crises. Tens of thousands have been killed and a famine and food shortages have threatened the lives of millions more.

On Sunday morning in Juba there were no celebratory posters or banners, rather an air of mourning for the lost promise of independence filled the quiet streets.

On July 9, 2011, dignitaries from around the world joined crowds of South Sudanese to celebrate the country's independence from Sudan, to the north, after decades of civil war.

But two years later, in December 2013, a new conflict was sparked when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

The war since then has been characterised by ethnic fighting, sexual violence and extreme brutality with civilians the primary victims.

Last month, the government announced it was cancelling official independence celebrations for the second year running.

"Our situation does not require us to celebrate," said spokesman Michael Makuei.

“Nothing to celebrate”

"Today I have nothing to celebrate," said 34-year-old father of three Ariik Majok, who works as a night watchman in the capital.

"I don't regret voting for the independence of South Sudan," said Majok, "although I am not happy with the way things are going on in South Sudan.

"I did not expect this," he said of the war, spiralling inflation and food crisis.

Wani John, a 39-year-old civil servant, said he too saw nothing to celebrate.

"There is no peace and stability. People are dying and our leaders are not solving the situation. I am not a happy citizen," he said. "What we simply want is peace."

Relief work

International aid agencies are struggling to address South Sudan's multiple crises and to raise funds for emergency relief work.

"Millions of children in South Sudan are suffering unthinkable hardships and setbacks in their education, nutrition, health and their rights," said Mahimbo Mdoe, South Sudan representative for the UN children's agency, UNICEF.

An estimated two million children have been uprooted during more than three-and-a-half years of war and at least 2,500 have been killed, UNICEF said.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)charity said there was little to celebrate as South Sudan marked its sixth independence anniversary.

"South Sudan's independence is overshadowed by conflict and an unprecedented food crisis," said NRC country director Rehana Zawar. 

Source: 
TRTWorld, AFP