'Spiraling Violence' Grips World's Youngest Country

Continued armed clashes, mass killings, “spiraling violence” and tens of thousands of displaced people have led some to wonder if the world’s youngest country is on the brink of civil war.

The newest wave of violence erupted in oil-rich South Sudan, an independent nation since 2011, on Dec. 15, when, as the Guardian reported,

The BBC‘s South Sudan analyst James Copnall cautions against painting the conflict as simply one of ethnic divisions:

On Monday, UN Chief Ban ki-Moon asked the Security Council to send up to 5,500 more troops to the country, while UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned Tuesday of mass graves and “palpable fear” amongst civilians.


“Mass extrajudicial killings, the targeting of individuals on the basis of their ethnicity and arbitrary detentions have been documented in recent days,” Pillay said. “We have discovered a mass grave in Bentiu, in Unity State, and there are reportedly at least two other mass graves in Juba.”

“There is a palpable fear among civilians of both Dinka and Nuer backgrounds that they will be killed on the basis of their ethnicity,” Pillay added. “There need to be clear statements and clear steps from all those in positions of political and military control that human rights violations will not be tolerated and those responsible will be brought to justice.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton expressed concern over the violence as well. “I am extremely concerned that South Sudan risks spiraling into a disaster for both its own people and the region,” she said on Tuesday. “Such a situation can, and must, be avoided.”

U.S. military forces are ready to intervene, with 150 Marines now in Djibouti, according to Africa Command.

“By positioning these forces forward, we are able to more quickly respond to crisis in the region, if required,” said the Africa Command.

“One of the lessons learned from the tragic events in Benghazi [Libya] was that we needed to be better postured, in order to respond to developing or crisis situations, if needed. These precautionary movements will allow us to do just that,” it said.

U.S. military aircraft has already been under attack in South Sudan while carrying out an evacuation mission.

While foreign nationals have been evacuated, tens of thousands Dink and Nuer have been forced to flee, displaced within their own country.  51-year-old Peter Bey, a Nuer, has watched foreign nationals escape to safety as he, and many others, seek shelter at a UN mission base in Juba.

“We see from history that the UN has left people behind before in Rwanda,” Bey said. “They put their own people on helicopters and left the people who died.”


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