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    NewsAfricaThe youngest country in the world is broken

    The youngest country in the world is broken

    A clueless dog crosses the dirt road, just before the iron bridge that crosses the White Nile, the river that bathes Juba, the capital of South Sudan (10.7 million inhabitants). The SUV driver grips the steering wheel tightly. He doesn’t flinch. Then a couple of dry cracks are heard and the howls of the beast, whose supposed owner starts a brawl, who knows if in cahoots with the police, to obtain the greatest possible compensation for the misfortune. An opportunity like no other to survive one more day in one of the poorest countries in the world —with four million displaced people, almost half the population— and where the Pope has been trying since Friday to promote the peace agreements signed two years ago in Rome.

    The death of the dog had a price, proclaims its owner: about 100 euros. A figure endorsed by the police and which allows us to continue on the road to Gumbo, on the outskirts of the city, where the mission of the Salesian nuns is located, educating thousands of people displaced by a conflict as old as the country itself. There, a path of dirt, dust and rubble runs the 700 meters between the rusty iron gate of the nuns’ compound —a marvel of management and solidarity where aid workers like the Spanish Fernando Lopez Cabello work— and a refugee camp that welcomes more than 10,000 people.

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    Gloria, refugee in the Don Dosco camp, in Gumbo, on the outskirts of Yuba, this Saturday.

    The camp was established here in January 2014, after the outbreak of the civil war in December 2013, stemming from the independence of South Sudan. Many of those displaced by the conflict (around two million) went to other countries such as Uganda and Ethiopia, according to UNHCR. The same number of people sought their fortune in the surroundings of the new capital. Some, like Gloria and her family, wanted to do it as close as possible to the Salesian mission that provides assistance and education to its inhabitants. “I suffered a lot, we had to leave with my mother and my five little brothers,” she explains, pointing to the metal and plastic shack where they live.

    A man with an amputated leg walks through a shanty town in Juba.
    A man with an amputated leg walks through a shanty town in Juba.STAFF (REUTERS)

    South Sudan, the most dangerous country to be an aid worker, gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after a referendum in which 98.3% of the population voted to secede. But the decision unleashed a civil war, the death throes of which led to a terrible human crisis and the current famine. The GDP per capita is a good indicator of the standard of living and in the case of South Sudan, in 2018, it was 359 euros, which is why it is in the final part of the world table, in position 194. Part of the The economic stagnation has to do with the ongoing war (27 people have been killed near the capital this week), the result of not having respected the peace agreements signed in 2020.

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    On January 13 of that year, the community of Sant’Egidio —very close to the Pope— managed to seat the Government and its opponents at the same table, to sign the Declaration of Rome, which recognized the political legitimacy of all opposition groups. . It was on wet paper. The latest violent clashes between armed groups in the administrative area of ​​Gran Pibor (in the east of the country) have caused the displacement of some 30,000 people, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

    In the Pope’s meeting with some victims of this conflict, a group of displaced persons narrated their vicissitudes and the life they have been imprisoned behind the walls of this type of camp. “A large number of children born in these years have only known the reality of the camps for displaced persons, forgetting the home environment, losing the link with their own land of origin, with their roots, with traditions. There can be no future in the camps for the displaced. It is necessary to grow as an open society, mixing, forming a single people, going through the challenges of integration, also learning the languages ​​spoken throughout the country and not only in one’s own ethnic group. […] It is absolutely necessary to avoid the marginalization of groups and the segregation of human beings. But to meet all these needs you need peace. And the help of many, of all”.

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    Elections in South Sudan have been postponed to next year. The country’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has just agreed to include factions and ethnic groups hitherto vetoed in the agreement. But many believe that the only consequence when the elections are held will be another civil war. The Pope was not too optimistic about the prospects either. “The greatest refugee crisis on the continent persists here, with at least four million children of this land who have been displaced; with food insecurity and malnutrition affecting two thirds of the population; and with the forecasts that speak of a human tragedy that can worsen even more in the course of the year”. A place where the life of a dog can cost more than that of a child or a woman.


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