February 25th 2018

World / East Africa

South Sudan rearing to get up again

South Sudan is struggling to pick up the pieces after more than two years of civil war which broke out in December, 2013.

By Dimba Jakobuyadimbadavid@gmail.comSaturday, 28 May 2016 11:39 EAT

South Sudan is struggling to pick up the pieces after more than two years of civil war which broke out in December, 2013. The civil war erupted when a split within the security forces escalated into a violent rebellion pitting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit against the rebel forces led by the former deputy president, Dr. Riek Machar Teny Thurgon.

 Salva Kiir accused his former deputy of planning a coup, which Machar dismissed, accusing Kiir of stage-managing a plot to get rid of him (Machar) from the party (SPLM) leadership. The conflict set off a cycle of retaliatory killings that split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.

The ethnic nature of the violence alarmed the international community as thousands of people were killed and more than two million people displaced. The leaders of East African regional body, Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD) the leaders of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia initiated a peace settlement process to end the conflict and helped to mediate the negotiations.

Currently, the country is involved in a process of implementing the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) which was reached in Ethiopia in August 2015 under the auspices of IGAD and supported by a host of leading members of the international community led by the Troika countries (United States, United Kingdom, and Norway). It was also supported by China, Japan and Russia but the implementation of the whole process has not been without challenges.

Since the formation of the long-awaited Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU) on 28th April, 2016, the process of implementing the peace agreement began in earnest following a period of several months that was characterized by lateness in schedule for working on the peace program. However, the delay in commencing the implementation of the agreement was occasioned by several factors that both sides  to the conflict appreciated. For instance, the extended date of arrival in Juba of the SPLA-IO leader, Dr. Riek Machar was not without the logistical reasons that were given by his side. The issues were resolved with the understanding President Salva Kiir, leading to Machar’s eventual return to Juba on April 26, 2016.

When South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, named his arch-rival Riek Machar as 1st vice-president, it raised hopes for the implementation of a repeatedly broken peace deal to end more than two years of civil war. A casual analysis on the implementation of the peace process points to many challenges which should not be seen as accidental. Conflicts of any kind present challenges of wide raging magnitude and the South Sudanese case was not only unique, but also complex, requiring a  multifaceted approach to manage.

The role of the peace partners (Ethiopian, Ugandan, South African, Tanzanian, and Kenyan governments) as well as the support and persistent pressure from global political and economic powers through the UN Security Council, United States, Britain, Norway, China, Japan, and Russia, among other players, has continued to be  very significant. Current efforts by all the bodies that the agreement charged with the tasks of implementing the transitional process should be commended. Any difficulties arising thereby should be seen as emerging challenges requiring more urgent consultations to resolve.

With highest optimism, supporters and well-wishers of the South Sudan peace deal would like to see more candid engagements conducted with open minds and a conciliatory attitude amongst stakeholders. Political and military leaders must refrain from taking hardline stances when making new decisions that seek to restore trust and help in building peace. All state and non-state actors must be encouraged to embrace a new mindset based on a one-country-one people clarion call, with a commitment to restore peace, unity and hope for a better future for all South Sudanese.

It is, however, encouraging to note from reports that the Strategic Defense and Security Review Board (SDSRB), a body provided for in the August 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan to initiate new policies for the security sector, had begun its work on assessing security sector reforms in the country. Reports have also indicated that the first workshop on new policies initiative was conducted the other week in Juba, and was attended by representatives from all the parties. That is pointing to some good progress taking place to put the young East African country on the course to a lasting peace.

In the context of ARCISS, it is instructive that the defense and security body which reports to the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), also seeks information from the rival parties on the cantonment of forces across the country. The Board, whose mandate includes revising defense policy in the country as well as recommending security force structure, among others, is also expected to develop a holistic strategic security assessment, security policy framework, recommend budget and a security sector transformation roadmap to include the unification of security forces, according to further reports.

In other related developments, the visit to Kenya on May 15, 2016 by a senior delegation of the transitional unity government of South Sudan led by the Vice President, James Wani Igga, was a positive indication of a brighter prospect for peace in South Sudan. Organized under the auspices of the Embassy of South Sudan in Kenya, the delegation met the South Sudanese community in Kenya in the capital city of Nairobi and briefed them on the ascension of South Sudan to the East African Community (EAC) and its implications. The delegation also briefed the South Sudanese nationals in Kenya on the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) and its progress so far.

As the Chinese say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It is the hope of many friends of South Sudan that in the fullness of time, South Sudan will achieve sustainable peace, democracy and development. In the meantime, all stakeholders in the South Sudan cause must commit to a genuine quest for peace in that country. All South Sudanese - wherever they are, individually or collectively and as a matter of duty  -  must rise up and climb up the high moral grounds to play a leading part in making the South Sudanese dream a reality. The dream was envisioned by their fallen heroes/heroines and there is a call to action on all the current leaders and generation of South Sudanese to make it a reality.

The writer was aide de camp to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga for a decade and later served as personal assistant for Raila Odinga for a similar period. His most recent assignment was as an elections operations specialist for SPLM in Unity State, South Sudan and technical support assistant in the Office of the Governor. He is currently an independent political strategist and special projects writer for the Kenya Free Press.

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