According to recent open source reporting, South Sudan is working to regain stability and control over the country following a bout of deadly violence that killed 400-500, wounded 800, and displaced an approximate 15,000-20,000 more people. With a dawn to dusk curfew in effect, US and other western government personnel were evacuated from the country Wednesday.
Amidst conflicting claims of a coup attempt, ethnic divisions, and rivalry infighting among military forces, reports coming out of the region are still conflicting and offer limited ground truth at best.
While the UN mission in the capital city of Juba reports that the situation is currently stabilizing, this situation is significant because it demonstrates the overarching trend of the continually declining security environment in the Sahel and Central African regions.
As recent SOFREP coverage timely reported this past week, the regional security and stability in the Sahel and Central African regions as a whole have been consistently plagued with a variety of threats, ranging from sectarian violence to the presence of radical Islamist fighters to brewing civil war based on ethnic divisions or religion.
South Sudan is no exception to these threats, and has been engaged in a constant struggle to control its borders and populace amidst the presence of several dissident militias, FTOs like the Lord’s Resistance Army, and others. According to reporting from the Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) for Sudan and South Sudan, numerous armed groups including, “militias, foreign armed groups, self-defense units, cattle raiding parties, heavily-armed civilians, nomadic communities, private armies…and criminal gangs” are able to operate freely in the region.
Oftentimes, participation in these groups is “extremely fluid…and is grounded in ethnic affiliations” or power struggles among various personalities. Coupled with Africa’s traditionally porous borders, a corrupt or young government, an extremely weak or nonexistent economy, and the presence of extensive natural resources, the security environment in South Sudan is perfectly conducive to instability and widespread violence.
It is critical to note the similarities between the declining security environments in the Central African Republic and South Sudan in light of recent negative trends in the Sahel region as a whole. As the unstable situation in the Central African Republic aptly demonstrated, ethnic or religious conflicts coupled with a lack of government control can contribute to a degraded security environment in which the onset of large-scale, countrywide chaos can spread uninhibited.
As a young country that formally split from Sudan in 2011 following a referendum and decades of conflict, South Sudan still struggles to maintain a posture capable of protecting its vast natural resources and maintaining security amidst the presence of several armed groups and power brokers throughout the country.
While French and African-Union forces work to establish and maintain a semblance of security in the Central African Republic following widespread sectarian violence, South Sudan must also pursue a course of action that will enable the young country to regain control and establish order over its resources and security environment.
Although within the realm of possibility, it is unlikely South Sudan will gain any major support from western nations as it works to regain control over its security environment. The majority of assistance, guidance, and aid will most likely originate from UN-driven sources and should provide enough support to enable South Sudan to establish short-term control over major population centers and other centers of gravity, such as the capital city of Juba and its airport.
Regardless of this short-term outcome, the current instability in South Sudan and neighboring Central African Republic could offer a degraded security environment conducive to greater nefarious activity, particularly in the realm of radical Islamism and the resurgence of radical Islamist or militant groups already prevalent in the region. It therefore poses a security concern to long-term US and western interests and is worth frequent monitoring.
Thanks for listening.
Feature Image courtesy of Boston.com