South Sudan is getting much, much bloodier as the army and rebels fight over the oil-rich town of Bentuito near the border with Sudan. There are reports that when rebels seized the city last week they slaughtered hundreds of ethnic Dinkas, as well as Nuer civilians who failed to cheer the rebels on. (The Dinka generally support the President and the army, while the Nuer are generally supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar.) The BBC reports:
Some 200 civilians were reportedly killed at the Kali-Ballee mosque where they had sought shelter.At the hospital, Nuer men, women and children, who hid rather than cheer the rebel forces as they entered the town, were also killed, it said.Non-Nuer South Sudanese and foreign nationals were singled out and killed, the UN Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss) said.
Africa’s problems are more serious than many think. South Sudan split off from the north after decades of religious and ethnic conflict. But now the same forces are ripping South Sudan to shreds.The mix of tribalism, nationalism, and religious conflict found throughout Africa is one of history’s harbingers of conflict and slaughter. These are the same forces caused the deaths of tens of millions of people in Europe between 1850 and 1950. They are still at work in the Middle East today, and the slaughter is not yet done.We like to think that progress and development banish war and ethnic hatreds. Actually something more like the opposite takes place on shorter timescales. Peoples who have lived side-by-side for centuries and millennia with only minor conflicts can become bitter enemies when the forces of development and modernization begin to take hold.Economic growth may not be a simple solution to Africa’s problems. It may be part of a process that makes its conflicts hotter than ever.