UNMISS’ protection of civilians site near Bentiu, South Sudan houses over 40,000 IDPs. August 23, 2014. (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)

The recent fighting between the government of South Sudan’s forces and rebels aligned with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State proves that civilian protection remains the key challenge for the United Nations in the country. During the attack by rebel forces, sixteen civilians were killed, including a paramount chief with his four children. Despite several signed cease-fires, civilians continue to be subjected to “extraordinary acts of cruelty” and ethnically motivated violence. Since December 2013, the UN estimates that at least 10,000 people have died in the conflict, around 1.8 million people have been displaced, and the country has been pushed to the edge of famine.

On July 9, 2011, amid a cloud of optimism, the world saw the birth of South Sudan. After years of violent civil conflict and political struggle, the independence of the new country was celebrated. The international community and stakeholders felt that ethnic polarization and inter-communal tensions could be mitigated by developing state institutions and building a state that could deliver basic services.

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