February 25th 2018

World / East Africa

International support lacking for South Sudan at a crucial time

Heavy gunfire in Juba leaves at least 300 people dead.

By Cyrus Mutaicmutai@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 12 Jul 2016 20:18 EAT

The fifth independence anniversary of South Sudan should have been a period of celebration by a long oppressed people. But the day turned out to be one of the most violent in the country’s history. Heavy gunfire in Juba left at least 300 people dead.

The Peace Agreement signed between the government led by President Salva Kiir and ex-rebels led by deputy president Riek Machar has come asunder as a new wave of inter-tribal violence broke out last week. The violence first flared up in December 2013 after President Kiir and his deputy Machar clashed over the leadership of the ruling SPLM party ahead of elections that were initially slated for 2016.

The immediate trigger of the violence was an attempt by soldiers from President Kiir's Dinka ethnic group to disarm those from the Nuer community, who were seen as loyal to Machar. The clash spiraled into the military barracks, dividing the defence forces down the middle.

What followed was one and half years of civil war leading to the death of more than 50,000 people and leaving more than one million displaced from their homes. 

Intervention by the international community was slow and weak. The international community applied minimal efforts to help in peace restoration, with the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN), the United States (US) and the European Union dilly dallying on formulating a joint effort.

Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia among other African countries tried to address the conflict, but their leaders were seen as cosying up to President Kiir. 
The AU has been warning of the worsening situation in South Sudan since the agreement was signed, informing the public that the parties have been violating the agreement. It has blamed the government and the rebels for the declining humanitarian situation in the country.

The AU has failed in its mandate by not dealing with the situation and it is high time that they come up with the necessary intervention which should be long term and more involving to ensure the two fighting parties are satisfied with the agreed deals to avoid future repetition of violence in the country.

The international organizations have been crucial in ending violence in several African nations with Kenya’s Post-Election Violence attracting international mediation led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

With the peace agreement negotiation and push for the end of violence left for neighboring countries like Kenya and Uganda who have little ability and influence, South Sudanese violence is likely to continue because it seems that the parties do not have trust in them.

However the US on Sunday condemned the renewed violence and demanded for the end of fighting in the country. “The United States strongly condemns the latest outbreak of fighting in Juba today between forces aligned with President Salva Kiir Mayardit and those aligned with First Vice President Riek Machar Teny, including reports we have that civilian sites may have been attacked," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Some attribute the icy relations to the incumbent's authoritarian style suggesting that after the US midwifed South Sudan to attain independence, the country’s politicians developed dictatorial instincts that made it difficult for the US government to intervene.

“I do think that the US is probably the only country that can push the two sides to sit down and have serious talks” said Sara Pantuliano, Head of Humanitarian policy group at the Overseas Development Institute in London.

The intervention by the US would help in striking a long term agreement between the two opposing parties in the world’s youngest nation.

The European Union has been crucial in providing humanitarian aid to the displaced South Sudanese since the violence started in 2013 and also providing refuge for the displaced people from the country. However, money and humanitarian aid is not enough to solve the crisis. The European countries have the ability to negotiate and come up with long term solution to the violence.

The EU has a higher chance and ability of intervening in South Sudan compared to the AU due to their broad financial ability and better trained soldiers with superior intelligence proving that it can do more than just providing humanitarian aid.

 The Chinese government condemned the violence and demanded an end to hostilities and ceasefire in the capital. China, being the leading investor in South Sudanese oil, is greatly affected by the violence making them to intervene though they have done little compared to their interest in the country’s economy.

Efforts by the western and African countries have made it possible to provide humanitarian aid, financial support as well as hosting the refugees but this does not provide long term end to the violence in the country.

By coming together and pushing for negotiations between the parties lead by representatives from the international bodies and other nations, peace will be restored in South Sudan and a long term solution found.

The writer is a student of journalism at the Technical University of Kenya and intern writer at the Kenya Free Press, specializing in politics, sports, agribusiness and international affairs.

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