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Children at a UN camp for internally displaced persons. Photo: Ashraf ShazlyAFP/Getty Images

Nearly five years into a civil war, the leaders of two warring factions in South Sudan met for talks in Ethiopia Wednesday, the AP reports.

Why it matters: The talks were the first in two years, and come as fears of genocide and famine are rising.

By the numbers: “Over a quarter of the population has been displaced from their homes. ... So we have over 3.5 million people now outside of their homes and without means for sustenance,” Katherine Almquist Knopf of National Defense University explained in a recent Council on Foreign Relations conference call. “... The situation is so bad, and the intent of the government as well as other armed actors — but principally of the government — of going after different ethnic communities, that we’ve had several very serious, very credible warnings of possible genocide unfolding in South Sudan.”

  • From the AP: "Both sides in South Sudan's civil war have been accused of widespread abuses such as gang rapes against civilians, including along ethnic lines. A number of South Sudan officials have been accused by human rights groups of profiting from the conflict and blocking the path to peace."
  • From Knopf: “Because of this dire, dire situation, what I would characterize as extreme state failure, the government of South Sudan does not control its territory, does not have a monopoly over coercive power in any meaningful way, it does not provide basic security to its citizens, and it does not deliver any public services or administer justice, and it has failed to act as a legitimate sovereign state.”

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