Critical Response on a
Research on ethnic conflict has intensified in the current years due to their recurrent nature in many countries of world. According to Reynal-Querol (2002, p.29), some of the most reported ethnic conflicts have been in Yugoslavia, Armenia, Sudan, Nigeria, India, Israel, Lebanon, Albania and Kosovo among others. Newspapers, journals and books have dedicated space to tell stories faced by various ethnic groups which have known no peace for most part of their existence (Gilley 2004, p.1155). In fact, some newspapers have argued that ethnicity has been at the core of politics in many developing countries with leaders using it as tool of bargain and path to leadership. In this research, the paper will critically analyze The New York Times’ article “War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking Apart” by Gettleman, (2017) and discuss how it has depicted ethnic conflict in South Sudan.
According Gilley (2004, p.1155) defined ethnic conflict as divergence between two or more ethnic groups. The conflict can as a result of economic, social or political differences. In most cases, it involves leaders of the ethnic minority group fight for position of recognition of their ethnic group within the society. On the other hand, leader of ethnic majority always wants to cement their dominance over other ethnicities (Mariana 2013, p.84). The research holds that ethnic conflict with an aim of ethnic group recognition and equality is not a recent phenomenon. The argument is true in regards to South Sudan. The article has depicted a state of continuing ethnic war since the country attained its independence from Sudan in 2011. The ethnic war in Sudan started on 16th December of 2013 as a result of political dispute between seen leaders of the ethnic majority Dinka and second largest ethnic group Nuer (Hutton 2014, p.6). The disagreement between President Salva Kiir (Dinka) and his deputy Riek Machar (Nuer) led to ethnic war, which saw over 600 Nuer people being murdered in Juba (Hutton 2014, p.6). In many times, Riek Machar had led his ethnic group Nuer to revenge leading to more deaths. The war has spread to even areas which looked to be peaceful at first and claimed lives the innocent and their properties (Gettleman 2014).
Studies have found that ethnic conflict leads to abuse of human rights (Mbowura 2014, p.110). When hatred exists between different ethnic groups, the dominant ethnic group uses violence and abuse of human rights to show their dominance. Gettleman (2014) argued that they do this by raping women, looting or destroying properties and killing the innocent people. Such case was evident in South Sudan when uniformed soldiers and government-controlled militias, majorly the Dinkas swept into the towns and burnt down Nuer people huts, raping women, massacring civilians and chasing millions of people from their houses (Gettleman 2014).
In many times ethnic conflict leads to deterioration of the economic. The reason attributed to this is that wars cause tension among people, hence fearing in engaging in economic activities. Wars also disrupt trade and infrastructure. Gettleman (2017) reported that South Sudan is rich in oil and has various regions which are fertile for agriculture. However, all the hopes for exportation of oil and commercialization of agriculture are all dashed. For instance, Gettleman (2017) pointed out that when South Sudan attained its independence, it was producing more than 300,350 barrels of the crude oil daily making billions of US dollars which could be used to build roads, schools, police station, health institutions and other service delivery. The war has led to evacuation of foreign investors hence affecting not international trade. As a young nation rich in natural resources, many foreigners found it a potential market to set up companies and do business (Hutton 2014, p.30). The country would have benefited from foreign exchange but ethnic conflict has disrupted the situation. Furthermore, children have been denied a right to good education. Gettleman (2017) argues that there is no time for learning as they have been forced to flee from camp to camp every time. Nevertheless, the article has failed to point out that there is always a consequence of seeking change particularly when ethnicity is involved.
Sociological theories have found that ethnic conflict is caused by various factors. According to Turner and Stets (2005, p. 39), structural functionalism theory views a society as a system which its parts need to work together to encourage stability and solidarity. However, if the parts fail to work, this is often results to a continuing conflict. On the other hand, Karl Marx through his theory social conflict theory people and groups with the society often interact based on conflict as opposed to consensus (Esteban, Mayoral & Ray 2012, p.858). Karl Marx argued that various different conflict aggrieved group tend to gain resources which they think are not shared equally (Macionis 2010, p.54). In other words, the unsatisfied ethnic group will always fight for equally from other dominant groups. On the other hand, powerful ethnic groups through their leaders tend to employ their authority to exploit minority group and gain power. The theory is true reflection of what is happening in South Sudan. For instance, Riek Machar who was the shards of hope and a politician from Nuer ethnicity who has been leading the rebellion was sideline and sent to exile (Gettlema 2017). The strategy was to make sure nobody was there to question Dinka’s dominance. The president has been using the situation appoint many people from his ethnic group to a powerful position in the government. The leads to unequal distribution of the resource and the minority will eventually resist. Nuer leaders have been mobilizing their people to fight for equal distribution of power and resources. Bayeh (2014, p.290) claimed that as a result, a very intense fight has been reported between Government forces and Riek Machar forces.
However, to some extent, ethnic conflict works as a tool to resolve the societal problem such economic, social and political inequality (Mariana, 2013, p.85). Even though some of the issues are obvious in ethnic conflict in South Sudan, the article has failed to point out some of the causes of the war. Yoshida (2013, p.43) asserted that in society there is a deep rooted hatred when resources are unequally divided and when the government cannot provide security. Therefore rising against oppression can be used to resolve the problem (Bergmann & Crutchfield 2009, p.151). The few that remain after ethnic war would live to tell the story and live in harmony. Such approach has been used in Rwanda and Kosovo. In this context, conflict theorists and researchers regard conflict as a tool of change (Bergmann & Crutchfield 2009, p.151).
A critical analysis of the article also reveals that socio-economic scarcity sometimes fuels violence (Yoshida 2013, p.41). Socio-economic scarcity implies to unequal sharing of the wealth attained from the natural resources. The ethnic group may not resist when the government embark of process harness their natural resource because they believe it would help them. However, when ethnic community receives an unequal share of wealth obtained from the natural resources they feels shortchanged hence could start an ethnic conflict (Yoshida 2013, p.41). The article is blaming the government for not equally sharing the proceeds from oil hence prompting violence. The article points out that oil returns was stolen by top government officials. While the citizens were wallowing in poverty, the public accused of gaining oil sales bought themselves snazziest cars and enjoying good life in neighboring country Kenya (Gettlema 2017). Nevertheless, while the article majorly blames the ethnic on distribution of resources, it has failed to highlight that some leaders use ethnic conflict for self interest, such a tool to ascend to power.
In conclusion, the paper has critically analyzed the ethnic conflict in South Sudan and drawn various conclusions from the article. The paper has established that ethnic war in South Sudan is resulted by dominance of the Dinka ethnic group other ethnic groups. The war has also been fueled by ethnic leaders encouraging locals and rebel groups to fight for their community to either maintain dominance or to demand fair distribution of resources. However, research has found out that ethnic conflict is a social conflict which is deeply rooted in the society when the parts are imbalanced. Therefore, this paper concludes that issues like distribution of resources and power are a time bomb that if not managed properly can lead to crumbling or a country or state hence leader must exercise caution.
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