Ongoing Tensions In South Sudan

Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of South Sudan – one of the world’s newest and most conflicted states – reaffirmed his personal commitment on Friday to the peace agreement that he signed in August. The negotiation, which took place in Ethiopia with insurgent leader, Riek Machar, was meant to bring to an end the civil war that has waged for nearly two years. However, the statement issued this weekend, which was intended to inspire confidence in these attempts at conflict resolution, comes amid condemnation by the rebels who argue that these sentiments are incongruent with Kiir’s political intentions.

South Sudan’s information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, stated on Friday that “the President has ultimately taken the very difficult, but bold decision to reaffirm his personal commitment of the government to fully implement the peace agreement. Because of this we welcome the coming of the former detainees and their participation in the opening and the operationalization of the office of the joint monitoring and evaluation commission”.

However, leader of the opposition faction (SPLM-IO), Machar, has asserted that the recent decision by the incumbent government to create 28 states within the country made it impossible for the peace agreement to come to fruition. Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the SPLA-IO, agreed that this was opposed the original terms agreed to in August, saying that “the agreement clearly states 10 states, and if you are amending or changing any article or any clause in the agreement it has to be agreed upon by the parties”. He predicted that this decision by the government would only bring about more community unrest because it is ethnically based, taking away land from one tribal group and granting it to another.

Thus, conflict has persisted across the country, irrespective of the August peace agreement, with international spectators becoming increasingly concerned that the negotiations could imminently collapse altogether. Festus Mogae, former Botswana President, who heads the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) in charge of ensuring the implementation of the peace deal, urged the two parties to adhere to what they agreed to, adding that he was especially concerned at the continued fighting in northern Unity state.

Ban Ki Moon, UN secretary general, has also commented on the issue, noting that ‘grave violations’ against the people of South Sudan are still occurring, including murder, rape, torture and child soldier recruitment. Estimates suggest that the conflict, which started in December 2013, has triggered the displacement of  2.3 million people, tens of thousands killed, and an economy in ruins.

The peace building process has had huge international backing, including the support of the United States, Britain and Norway. British Foreign Office Minister, James Duddridge, spoke out against the fact that “the fighting continues and the humanitarian situation is becoming worse”, arguing that

“South Sudan’s people deserve much better”.

The first meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commision (JMEC) occurred in Juba on November 27th, and it is hoped by all that this will reinitiate a process of cooperation between the government and the rebels, bringing the seemingly incessant suffering to an end. Whether it will miraculously do so, after decades of political, economic, religious and ethnic unrest in the region, remains to be seen. It would appear that in order for a more successful peace deal to be reached, each side will have to commit more seriously to the objective of peace, and compromise more than they have done up to this point.