Assistant professor of politics and legal studies Mark Massoud said South Sudan — having declared its independence four years ago — is now “the world’s newest country.” He added that as the newest nation, it is also recognized globally as one of the most delicate states.
On Tuesday night, Massoud moderated a discussion on the history of South Sudan and welcomed to the floor Noah Salomon, an assistant professor of religion at Carleton College in Minnesota. The discussion, “Understanding Conflict in South Sudan,” was a part of a larger yearlong series called Global Islam.
Organized and hosted by the UC Santa Cruz Center for Emerging Worlds, the series began in September within the anthropology department to address resource competitions, conflicts, environmental challenges and ethnic nationalist and religious tensions around the globe.
“Earlier this year, South Sudan was rated the number one fragile state in the world due to human displacement and violence,” Massoud said. “Every day, more than 100 people are dying from the violence, even as we sit here.”
Conflict broke out between armed militia groups and the state army in Juba, South Sudan’s capital in December 2013. Since then, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million people and killed over 50,000, according to the non-governmental organization The International Crisis Group.
“Just today, international news media has been reporting increased conflict in Dentu, which is one of the oil rich regions of South Sudan,” Massoud said. “Yesterday, the United Nations made a global appeal for $1.8 billion to stave off famine in South Sudan due to the conflict and environmental issues.”
Massoud then introduced professor Salomon, who presented images of the country before and after the start of the conflict. Among the photos were images of once clean and well-maintained streets that were later covered with trash and filth.
“The peace agreement that led to the foundation of South Sudan was known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Salomon said. “It did little to address the grievances of the majority of Sudanese on either side of the border between Sudan and South Sudan.”
Salomon said that in the case of South Sudan, there has always been marginalization, politically, economically and culturally.
“Once the common enemy was gone and colonialism was addressed, the problem of southern inequality was a fully militarized society of an army that was being asked to change overnight, from a rebel movement to a government,” Salomon said. “When the death settles, old grievances remain unaddressed, and new enemies seem to proliferate.”
UCSC anthropology professor and host Lisa Rofel emphasized the need for a discussion of this kind on campus.
“These are the kinds of issues that everybody is hungering for more knowledge about … [and for a] more in-depth conversation about,” Rofel said. “We can’t just have these headlines fly by our heads — to give us a more detailed picture is really useful.”