Civil War | South Sudan
I met Pel the day I landed in Addis Ababa. We connected immediately and over numerous coffee dates I learnt that he was a South Sudanese Rebel (freedom fighter) displaced by the current civil war.
One night he invited me to his family's house for dinner.
For the first half hour I simply listened to the passionate commentary exchanged between his brother and uncle. I learnt that his dad was also a Rebel based in the bush and that his brother would soon join him. Attractive and educated with a Bachelor in Economics and a young family, his brother had quit his job at an international oil company- a strategy employed by many people in order to break down the economy, to spend time with his family before returning for war.
I sat in their living room, decorated with family portraits and Christian ornaments, in absolute disbelief as to how this one man had so severely challenged my interpretation of a Freedom Fighter. These people are not bushman with little skills and nothing to do- they're highly educated people who want the democracy they know they're entitled to. They've exhausted multiple non-violent strategies and in pursuits for freedom are prepared to go to their graves fighting for a better world for the next generation. Almost ironically, they're at peace with this.
Of course I was startled. I'm sitting here having a home cooked meal in the house of a family displaced by war. A family whose mannerisms and etiquette would easily fit in with my networks back in Australia. I questioned why we know longer care about the details of conflict in Africa. Why we skim the pages of the paper, and in essence know nothing.
Simply, it's been exhausted. The media lost its impact.
Why should we care about South Sudan?
There's no coalition, it's not driven by race or religion, so how is it different...and why have over a million people been displaced in its three year infancy?
South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world. Three years old, turning four this July.
In 2011, the people voted in favour of Independence, formally separating from Sudan. President Bashir accepted to referendum and so on July 9 2011, the world opened it's doors to a new country. A country founded on principles of democracy.
South Sudan was ill prepared. The economy, infrastructure and soiree of other things were not in order and despite Ugandan and Ethiopian intervention, thousands continued to die in disputes over the border and ethnic clashes against the north.
In December 2013 South Sudan's President Kiir accused his Vice President, Riek Machar of plotting to overthrow him. Machar was dismissed along with the entire cabinet and so formed the Rebel Freedom Fighters. In it's simplicity, it's President Vs. Ex-vice President and while people want Machar to win, he also led an army to violently massacre thousands of people in the early 90s. Something he refused to accept responsibility for until 2012.
The events that followed Machar's dismissal prompted the eruption of a civil war.
The nation which was once applauded as one of America's greatest foreign policy's is now a formal case study for the limitations of American Government's power and influence.
There is no immediate good outcome here. The UN estimates 1.5 million people have been displaced and a further 5 million are in need of emergency aid.
Conversing via the internet with Pel as I wrote this, he said his brother had left but was unsure as to where he, nor his father were.
After dinner that initial night Pel walked me home. I noticed he'd stopped and between turning to wait and reaching for my camera, I saw him standing like this. I may have missed the definitive moment by milliseconds but I caught him, arms wide and staring at the sky. A ceasefire had been announced.
As time would tell, that ceasefire would be broken, and the war would continue.