South Sudan Signs Another Peace Deal – But Will It Hold?

Long-anticipated peace in South Sudan was reached on Sunday when the president and the rebel leader signed a cease-fire and peace agreement though many are nervously waiting to see if it holds. President Salva Kiir and the leader of the warring party, Riek Machar, agreed on a deal that would end the bloody civil war and create a unity government for which Machar would be the vice president of, according to Aljazeera. Signed in Sudan with the Sudanese, Kenyan, Ugandan and Djiboutian leaders present, South Sudan will have a three-month transition period to establish the new government which will then be in effect for thirty-six months. BBC reports that many shops and businesses were shut down in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, on Sunday as people celebrated the official ending of the five-year civil war that left tens of thousands dead and far more displaced. Not only was this peace-agreement helpful to end the violence in South Sudan, but it also may help with the economic hardships the country is currently facing. Neighboring Sudan, who brokered the deal, will also benefit, receiving oil from South Sudan’s Wahda region beginning in September, according to Reuters. Despite the hopeful start to peace, many are concerned as to whether or not it will last seeing as the rival leaders have made similar deals in the past including an almost identical agreement two years ago that quickly fell apart, doing little to put an end to the ethnically-driven civil war, according to the New York Times.

Many celebrated this major step towards peace including Kiir himself who said he and the rebels will “rededicate ourselves to unite our people and work for a peaceful transfer of power through the ballot boxes rather than through bullets,” according to BBC. Machar quickly followed, as reported by Reuters, stating “today we celebrate, not just in South Sudan, but throughout the world.” Sudanese foreign minister, Al-Dirdiri Mohamed followed up on the economic benefits of the deal, stating “there will be profit… one of our goals is the need to save the economy of South Sudan because it has reached a level of collapse,” Reuters continues. Machar continued that “there is no option but peace… we have to focus after this stage on implementing the agreement that if we don’t implement, we will all be failures,” according to Reuters.

Though the deal is promising and may be a productive step towards long term peace, Machar was right in saying that this is all in the implementation. Due to South Sudan’s inability to maintain peace in the past, it is difficult to know how the most recent agreement will be any different. Kiir believes that this deal will hold because it has not been forced upon them by foreign governments but rather been agreed upon internally, according to Reuters. It is key for change to come from within and the South Sudanese people who want the violence and suffering to come to an end have to hope that Kiir and Machar can work together and make this peace last. But this unsustainable peace is in fact a reflection of the other issues that South Sudan faces such as its struggling economy, education system and healthcare—these fundamental necessities must be treated alongside the peace deal in order to create a lasting effect.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, making it the youngest country in the world according to BBC. But it’s short history has been incredibly violent and unpredictable, falling into a brutal civil war two years after its secession due to ethnic tensions between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups and the power struggle between Kiir and Machar, BBC continues. Kiir has been the president of South Sudan since its independence in 2011 and has addressed the complex border disputes of the new country along with many controversial reforms and military issues, according to BBC. Machar served as South Sudan’s vice president upon its independence until tensions rose and he broke off in 2013 to lead the rebel faction, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO). This faction against Kiir is composed of the private armies of rebel warlords and deserters from the national army who have felt marginalized or endangered by the South Sudanese government, according to BBC. The civil war has brought about civilian massacres such as the Bentiu incident in 2014, 3.5 million displaced peoples, 300,000 dead, starving children, and mass rape according to the New York Times. The 2015 peace deal was monitored by Kenyan, Ugandan and Ethiopian leaders along with the UN Security Council who promised to take immediate action if Kiir did not sign the agreement, according to Aljazeera. But only a year after the agreement was signed, Aljazeera reported that the head monitor of the fragile truce believed that South Sudan was worse off than ever before. South Sudan fell into violence soon after this promising deal and has been fighting and experiencing casualties up to the Sunday deal. For more information on the history of South Sudan and the civil war, see the BBC Timeline.

So far the peace deal has held and Kiir and Machar are adjusting to the terms and transitioning the government accordingly. South Sudan continues to celebrate the newfound peace and attempt to put the bloody civil war behind them. Though it is too early to tell if the deal will hold, the country is hopeful and Kiir and Machar continue to work alongside one another for a better South Sudan.