New efforts by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Council of Ministers to revitalise the August 2015 South Sudan peace agreement is raising hope that the four-year old civil war could soon come to an end.
Igad’s Council of Ministers has been working behind the scenes, applying diplomatic pressure on the two protagonists — President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Dr Riek Machar.
It is encouraging that Dr Machar, after snubbing Igad’s efforts for almost one year, is now open to consultations, which led to his meeting with Ethiopian and Sudanese foreign ministers, in South Africa on October 5.
The meeting was fruitful, as all parties agreed on the importance and urgency of achieving peace in South Sudan.
This is a major positive move as Igad prepares to engage all parties to the August 2015 peace agreement including President Kiir and other leaders of the National Democratic Movement and Former Detainees.
Igad should now move with speed to consolidate the gains of the consultations as it has been previously blamed for doing very little as the guarantor of the peace agreement, leading to disillusionment with the South Sudan peace process.
International focus is now on Somalia as South Sudan degenerates, with the emergence of more ethnic militias, over two million civilians fleeing to neighbouring countries and about seven million people in need of urgent food aid.
But the ultimate test will be for Igad to convene a conference in which all stakeholders will present their grievances and make concessions.
Igad needs to note that Western donors who have been supporting the peace process have already warned that they cannot offer support indefinitely without tangible results.
The Troika — the UK, US and Norway — who together with the European Union, are the main funders of the peace process have been demanding prompt and inclusive revitalisation process that would allow them to consider the commitment of further resources to the country.
Three challenges however must be overcome. One, Igad must address and deal with the emergence of more militias. Some of the escalating conflicts are based on local issues connected to natural resources, which calls for a comprehensive approach before any attempts are made in national reconciliation.
Two, some warlords are afraid of being called to account for their war atrocities once peace is restored, and the obvious loss of benefiting from a war economy. Igad needs to reassure them.
Three, Igad partner states have to put aside their vested economic and political interests for the sake of a return to stability in South Sudan.
This means persuading President Kiir that side lining Dr Machar from the peace process is counterproductive. He does after all, control the biggest armed group in the country.