The expanding fighting in the Republic of South Sudan has killed more than 500 people in recent days and injured four U.S. military personnel who were evacuating Americans and other foreigners from the country. The conflict endangers not only citizens of that country but threatens to negatively impact the country's neighbors and the international community, said Congressman Chris Smith (N.J.-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
"Already more than 500 people are reported dead," said Smith. "More could be killed or injured, and not only in South Sudan—the conflict may spread, threatening people in neighboring countries. The escalating fighting in South Sudan could likely lead to more terrorist activities in an already-volatile region. The Administration's call for a Christmas season cease-fire must be augmented by intense diplomacy with both sides."
South Sudan, the world's newest nation, borders countries already troubled with terrorist activity by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and various Islamic radical and other militia groups in the Central African Republic, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Analysts fear that a South Sudan distracted and divided by civil war would provide an easier operating ground for terrorist groups. The LRA terrorist group, notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to serve as child soldiers, still operates in the region and poses a danger to the lives of civilians in all four countries.
Meanwhile, Islamic radicals have infiltrated countries in the region, most notably Somalia, but also Ethiopia and even Uganda. An unstable South Sudan will only further empower them by providing the kind of chaos in which the radicals thrive. The entire Sahel region of north-central Africa has been targeted, with Mali having been torn apart by their violent activities and nations such as Niger, Chad and Central African Republic continuing to be adversely affected by their militant and terroristic actions.
Last year's nine-month oil dispute between South Sudan and Sudan cut oil production from a combined 450,000 barrels per day to what amounted to a mere trickle, and isn't predicted to return to pre-crisis levels until 2017 at the earliest. The fighting in South Sudan further endangers that timetable as the northern hemisphere heads into winter, and therefore greater oil consumption. Because oil is the only major export for the South Sudanese economy, the economic impact of losing more of its oil production could bring additional suffering to the already-impoverished people of South Sudan.