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8 cose da sapere sul Sud Sudan 31.12.13

Il Sydney Morning Herald in otto domande e otto risposte districa la crisi in atto nel tormentato Sud Sudan a un passo dalla guerra civile.

Why are people in South Sudan killing each other?

The violence started on December 15, when troops in the presidential guard started fighting against one another, in what is a depressingly accurate metaphor for South Sudan's problems. That fighting quickly spread and is now engulfing entire swathes of the country.

If that seems like a strange way for a potential civil war to start, it will make more sense once you hear the backstory. In July, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, fired his vice president, Riek Machar. The two were more rivals than partners; Kiir thought that Machar was gunning for his job. Here's the really important thing: Kiir and Machar are from different ethnic groups, and in South Sudan ethnic groups are really important. Kiir is ethnic Dinka, the largest of South Sudan's many ethnic groups. Machar is Nuer, the country's second-largest group.

Tension between the Dinka and the Nuer goes way back in South Sudan, and the political rivalry between the groups' two most powerful members, Kiir and Machar, always had the potential to become an ethnic conflict. It did on December 15, when members of the presidential guard who are Dinka tried to disarm members of the guard who are Nuer, maybe because they feared the Nuer would try to stage a coup. (Kiir later said the fighting had started because Machar had tried to stage a coup, although evidence for this is thin.)

The fighting between Dinka and Nuer presidential guards very quickly spread across the country. The main antagonists in the fighting are a group of Nuer called the White Army. (Some reports say the group got its name because fighters smeared themselves with white ash to protect themselves from insects.) The White Army militants have seized territory, including some oil-producing land, and may or may not be marching on the city of Bor.