Peace Still Elusive in Africa's Youngest Nation
Tuesday marks two years since the start of the civil war in South Sudan. A peace deal was signed in August but implementation has been slow and complicated by continued disagreements.
Peace talks for South Sudan have resulted in many agreements over the past two years, but that hasn't stopped tens of thousands of people from being killed and more than two million people from being displaced. Humanitarian agencies say four million South Sudanese are at risk for food shortages, with many facing possible starvation.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says continued fighting is making it hard to reach many civilians in need of food and medical care. Kisut Gebre Egziabher of the United Nations refugee agency says funding is also a problem.
"The humanitarian community requested for a little over 340 million U.S. dollars, and this figure was only 20 percent funded until November. So you can see the gap. We are forced to focus on life-saving activities only. The funding situation is really very precarious and we hope [the] donor community will support us better in 2016," Gebre Egziabher said.
A political rift between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar turned violent two years ago. The regional bloc IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, quickly established a mediation team after the conflict started.
Dade Desta, a policy analyst at the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace and Development, believes the intervention by IGAD might have prevented a possible genocide. But he is not impressed with the how the peace negotiations were conducted.
“It should have been done bottom up, grassroots level, mobilization and reconciliations. It should have included traditional values and it should have helped the reconciliation and state building as a center of the whole process, which it’s not. It’s just about power sharing, nothing else,” he said. Desta added that at this point it is too late to change course.
Both sides have violated the cease-fire they agreed to in August. A transitional government was to be created in November but is delayed. A rebel advance team was to arrive in the capital, Juba, in early December, but the sides now disagree about the size of the team.
The spokesman of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tewolde Mulugeta, said the sides must make greater efforts to implement the accord, “It needs commitment on all parties. That commitment should be forthcoming from everybody. Because this is for the peace and development for South Sudan people. And of course the region as well,” Mulugeta said.
The U.N. Security Council has threatened more sanctions on those who violate or obstruct the peace deal. It has already slapped travel bans and asset freezes on six military leaders from both sides of the conflict.