It was thought that independence would bring an end to the perennial conflict in Sudan. The grim reality was that the conflict would be an ongoing, unending brutal and ugly affair.
South Sudan is one of the newest on planet Earth. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa's longest-running civil war. A new lease of life was granted, but it eluded the people. A gruesome civil war from 2013-15 displaced 2.2 million people and threatened the success of one of the world's newest countries.
The independence has marked the end of decades of fighting between rebels in the predominantly Christian south of Sudan and their northern Arab rivals in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. A new wave of optimism and an atmosphere of euphoria gripped the South Sudanese people, but this proved to be ephemeral. The creation of South Sudan was a major foreign policy success for the U.S. South Sudanese independence had been championed by politicians on both sides of the aisle dating back to the Clinton administration.
South Sudan is still reeling from the civil war that engulfed the new nation in 2013. Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes. Famine was declared in parts of the country in February and now more than half the population — six million of the country's 11 million people — are considered by the United Nations to be on the brink of starvation. It has been one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the world. "At the moment, the two biggest things in South Sudan are the problem of famine as well as the escalation of violence — the civil war itself," says Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, overseer of the Sudan Pentecostal Church. "So we are hungry and we are afraid at the same time." Dau says the situation in South Sudan has been going from bad to worse.
Civil war broke out when Mr Kiir sacked his entire cabinet and accused Vice-President Riek Machar of instigating a failed coup. Government and rebels agreed to attend peace talks in Ethiopia in 2014, and a deal was finally signed under threat of UN sanctions for both sides in August 2015. Mr Machar returned from exile to be sworn in as first vice president of a new unity government in April 2016, but was sacked a few months later after renewed conflict.
South Sudan is one of the poorest nations in the world. When it attained independence, there were no paved roads, the majority of people were dependent on subsistence farming as a source of their livelihood, most schools were in a shambolic state. The little cash in the state came from the oil reserves. These oil reserves have proved to be a bone of contention and a prize worth fighting over.
Dau from the Pentecostal Church says it's hard to find peace when all you've ever known is war. South Sudan has been the scene of fighting for decades, dating back to the end of colonial rule after World War II, when the British and Egyptians put Khartoum in charge and rebels in the south fought back. That conflict lasted into the 1970s. What the Sudanese call "the second civil war" erupted in the late '80s, pitting the Sudanese People's Liberation Army against Khartoum. The 2011 declaration of independence ended that war. But now the country's on to a third.
The state of the media is an a grossly appalling state. Media freedom is fragile in South Sudan, where armed groups, weak legal institutions and political pressures undermine free reporting. Journalists risk arrest over reports that criticise the government and the ruling party. There have been reported seizures of newspapers, or disruption of their distribution, by the authorities. The state-owned South Sudan TV has little competition, and the country's poverty and limited electricity has hindered the development of TV media.
Glimmers of hope are still dull in South Sudan. It remains that a bright future is still bleak, and if change is to come, it is not going to come anytime soon. The hope is that Africa collectively works together with other players whether continentally or internationally in fighting the mess that is putrefying South Sudan.