South Sudan: 10 years later and millions remain displaced
The aid has been essential to keeping people alive, said Luka Biong Deng Kuol, a former minister of presidential affairs in South Sudan. But he said it has also propped up a weak, largely transactional national government that has mostly failed to build institutions. Many government leaders, including Kiir and Machar, have been accused of amassing fortunes as the violence escalated, and a recent UN report detailed the extent of continued corruption since 2018.

“The problem is that the aid has become a part of perpetual suffering,” said Kuol, now academic dean at the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies at the National Defence University in Washington.

In Bentiu this year, a void was left when the international community withdrew services.

When the World Food Programme cut rations because of pandemic-related donation gaps – and to make sure it had enough to give to the six counties that the United Nations declared “one step away from famine” – Gatjani started fasting so his children would have more to eat. Still, some of their hair is tinted with the orange that is a telltale sign of malnutrition.

Gatjani's neighbours came down with hepatitis E after maintenance of the latrines was ended, also because of funding cuts. MSF’s head of mission, Bernard Wiseman, described an explosion of cases as part of the camp's “staggering” deterioration.

The UN decision to transfer control of the camps to the government was both a recognition of how the conflict had changed, with more forces needed elsewhere, said Nicholas Haysom, the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, and an acknowledgement that the United Nations was unable to provide security for so many in perpetuity.

“We’re facing in 2022 a world that is recovering from Covid, that faces a number of other really significant humanitarian crises, not least in this region with Ethiopia,” he said, adding that South Sudan could not “continue to expect that same level” of security support.

The Bentiu police force, he added, is still monitored and mentored by UN forces.

But in the camp, Gatjani and others said, the young-looking forces carrying guns have brought a sense of unease. Gunshots have started ringing out more frequently, he said, and he worries that the forces could turn on the mostly Nuer residents, or turn on each other.

“People are asking,” he said, “what if the fighting starts again?”

He increasingly finds himself regretting his vote for independence. If war begins again, as he expects it could, Gatjani said he imagines people here will be unprotected. He has already plotted how to sneak his children to safety.

Then he said, as he stared toward the barbed-wire fencing, he would see no choice but to return and fight.

© The Washington Post


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