FINDING A LASTING PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN

Ahaziah Abubakar Suleiman, Abuja

On Thursday July 7, 2016 fighting broke out in Juba, the capital of South Sudan after a fragile peace deal reached in April collapsed. The fighting is the first in the capital since the end of the civil war and the reconciliation of President Salva Kiir with his main rival, Vice President Riek Machar early this year, which led to the Vice President’s return to the capital in April.

The United Nations has been quick to condemn the renewed hostilities in the world’s youngest nation with threats of an arms embargo. The Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and other world leaders have also joined in condemning the renewed fighting and called for immediate ceasefire.

Due to the global condemnation of the renewed fighting in Juba, the two gladiators in the crisis President Kiir and Vice President Machar who have been long standing rivals, on Monday July 11, 2016 called their troops to order with a ceasefire agreement reached but not before several lives were lost. Unofficial figures put the death toll at over two hundred.

The rivalry between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar dates back to 1991 during the liberation struggle against the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Riek Machar rejoined Mr. Kiir to form the government of an independent South Sudan Republic and was named Vice President in 2011. The administration was riddled with crisis and tension. Animosity was life among the diverse tribes following independence on July 9, 2011.

The cosmetic relationship between the two leaders was broken in 2013 when Riek Machar was sacked as Vice President. A few months after the sack, a full scale war broke out between soldiers of the government led by President Salva Kiir and those loyal to Mr. Machar.

The fighting that erupted at the time raised fears of a return to civil war, particularly with the departure of the Vice President and the withdrawal of troops loyal to him out of the capital city Juba.

The fear was however, quickly allayed by the spokesman for Mr. Machar, James Gatdet Dat who said the Vice President will remain out of the capital until ceasefire details are worked out.

Be that as it may, both leaders in the conflict must consider the plight of their population, who have endured hunger, diseases and lack of basic infrastructure since independence. Ostensibly, it is time a rethink and a recommitment to a lasting peace.

The role of South Sudan’s neighbours must also be reviewed. The African Union must ensure that the economics interests of neighbouring countries are not the primary propelling principle in efforts to stabilize and move South Sudan forward.

For a fact, all nations young and old across the length and breadth of Africa must preach and embrace peace and development, to reposition the continent for a prosperous future.

In this regard UN has the support of the peoples of Africa to impose an arms embargo and sanction leaders and commanders who block the implementation of the peace deal.

Global assistance for the millions of displaced persons to facilitate their safe return can not be overstated.

As the African Union meets in Kigali, Rwanda, an opportunity presents itself to decisively tackle the South Sudan crisis once and for all, in the interest of the peace – loving people of world’s newest nation.