Think tank sees little chance of lasting peace in South Sudan

Saturday January 19 2019

salva kiir, riek machar

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (right) and rebel leader Riek Machar make peace at the 33rd Extraordinary Summit of Igad in Addis Ababa on September 12, 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

KEVIN J KELLEY
By KEVIN J KELLEY
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Prospects for lasting peace in South Sudan appear poor, an expert on the country suggests in an analysis for the US Defence Department's Africa think tank.

Despite the warring parties' agreement to end the country's five-year civil war, the coming months carry a "likelihood of ongoing offensive operations, largely by the government," writes Klem Ryan, a former co-ordinator of the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan.

"This is particularly likely," Mr Ryan adds, "if the Intergovernmental Authority on Development [Igad] sanctions on military operations continue to remain muted, signalling to the government of South Sudan that there is little political consequence for continued fighting."

Igad has sought to help broker peace in South Sudan, but its efforts have proved ineffectual due in part to political divisions among its member-states.

Fighting has continued at a reduced level in parts of South Sudan since last September's reaffirmation of a 2017 peace agreement, Mr Ryan says.

He notes that violence has been most intense in the states of Wau and the Equatorias, with government forces targeting areas considered to favour opposition groups.

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"The fighting is linked to the control of land resources, but it also changes the demography of these areas," Mr Ryan observes. "Reducing the presence of people expected to vote against the government is likely to be an additional aim of these offensives."

Recent military offensives have apparently been conducted jointly by pro-government militias and opposition forces allied with rebel leader Riek Machar, the analyst says.

These operations, he adds, have been aimed at non-signatories to the peace agreement — specifically Thomas Cirillo's National Salvation Front, which is active in Central and Western Equatoria.

An official merger of government and rebel troops, which the peace agreement envisions, probably will not occur, Mr Ryan speculates because of the inclusion of large numbers of Nuer.

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