The country is steadily moving through a tight rope of peace after several years of civil war.
Nine years after South Sudan's independence, seven years after the start of a bloody civil war and two years after the parties to the conflict signed a peace agreement, much remains to be done in the world's youngest country to ensure a safe, stable future for its people. Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan is battling a new civil war. There are many causes for the conflict in South Sudan, ranging from ethnic tensions, management of oil resources and the power struggle between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar.
In December 2013, President Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d'état. Machar denied trying to start a coup and fled to lead the SPLM in opposition (SPLM-IO). Fighting broke out between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM-IO, igniting the civil war. Political conflict, compounded by economic woes and drought, has caused massive displacement, raging violence and dire food shortages. Over seven million people about two thirds of the population are in need of aid, including around 6.9 million people experiencing hunger.
To seek a solution to this crisis, a peace agreement was signed by the government and Machar's opposition party, along with several other rebel factions. In late October 2018, Machar returned to South Sudan for a nationwide peace celebration to mark the end of the civil war. Though there has been much progress in the peace, implementation is lagging and needs urgent attention from the international community, the United Nations top official in that country has reported to the Security Council. “Momentum in South Sudan’s peace process is linked to the strength of international engagement,” David Shearer, Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said last September.
In 2020, a giant step was made with the formation of a transitional Government, created through compromise by the parties and led by President Salva Kiir with First Vice-President Riek Machar. In addition, 9 of 10 Governors appointed in the last quarter resumed their functions, although all other state and county executive and legislative positions remain vacant. The Council of Ministers is meeting and most national institutions are functioning, at least at a basic level. Arrangements to unify security forces are stalled and a dispute over governorship in the Upper Nile, which is also halting the appointment of country commissioners. This hold-up leaves a local vacuum of power and makes it difficult to nip in the bud brewing intercommunal violence.
For a hitch-free process, international attention needs to be refocused on South Sudan to avert a resurgence of volatility. While concrete steps to breathe fresh life into the peace process is urgent. This can be done with the addition of a multi-donor trust fund to bring reconciliation, stabilization and resilience through a wide partnership.