“Just as a fence has to be built with pegs, an able person needs the help of three others.” — Chinese Proverb.
As South Sudan marks its ten-year Independence anniversary this month, the country is still struggling to bring its internal conflicts to an end.
Only two years after it broke away from Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation was plunged into a violent conflict from which it is yet to fully recover.
According to the World Bank, the war has left South Sudan in a web of fragility, economic stagnation and instability. The hopes for peace are hinged on the commitment of the parties to honour their obligations under the peace agreement signed in 2018, but these have continued to waver.
There have been moments of weakness, for instance, when President Salva Kiir was quoted as publicly lamenting that the agreement is complex and difficult to implement. He further shifted blame stating that “even those who drafted this agreement are not serious in implementing it, and if they are given this agreement, I believe that it would be difficult for them to implement.”
His close aides have suggested that the delay is due to lack of funds and have called on the international community to support the process by funding it. In spite of the varied views on the cause of the delays in implementing the agreement, all who have voiced an opinion on the way forward are agreed that it will take concerted and co-ordinated effort of the political leadership, donors, guarantors, and the citizens of South Sudan.
There have been concerns about whether the delays in implementing the agreement are purely logistical, financial, or have been caused by a lack of political will. While this is easy to deduce based on what has been implemented and what is pending, there is a need to investigate what sustainable peace will entail. Worth exploring, too, is whether the peace guarantors and witnesses to the agreement have a stake in pushing the parties towards non-violation.
Three positions can be advanced towards peace in South Sudan. First, there is a need for all to sign on to a single political vision that elevates a politically stable South Sudan above the immediate interests of national, regional, and international actors.
Second, action must be taken to allocate sufficient resources for the actualisation of identified priorities such as the unification of the security forces. Currently, the process is at risk of failing, as forces have left the camps citing lack of food, medical supplies and deplorable conditions.
Third, the guarantors and witnesses of the peace agreement must facilitate and maintain dialogue with the political actors in South Sudan and encourage and support them to honour their commitments.
Public expressions of support such as that made by the Chinese must be matched with action. China and South Sudan have signed an agreement on trade, economic and technological co-operation and established the Joint Committee of Bilateral Economic and Trade Co-operation.
The support has also extended to co-operation in education, health, culture, youth, and local affairs Indeed. For China and all development partners the measure of impact of the support is when the trickle-down results of their investment are felt by the ordinary citizen.
Ukach Farouk is programmes co-ordinator, South Sudan Law Society; [email protected]; Twitter: @faroukukach