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A Path to Peace for South Sudan

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A Path to Peace for South Sudan

Posted by Justine Fleischner on June 5, 2014


Six months into the civil war in South Sudan, the crisis continues to intensify despite peace overtures made far away from the front lines in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. A fragile peace agreement signed last month between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President turned rebel leader, Dr. Riek Machar, has not yet been fully implemented. What began as a political power struggle between two leaders—and the factions and interests they represent—has torn the new nation apart and threatens broader regional stability.

Organized targeted mass killings and sexual violence against women and girls based on their ethnicity, as well as the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian assistance, have deepened the dividing lines between communities, many of which are recovering from nearly half a century of civil war. The death toll is unknown, with an early estimate of 10,000 eclipsed by more recent massacres and ongoing heavy fighting. Over one million people have been displaced, including around 95,000 who have sought refuge on U.N. bases across the country. According to the United Nations, close to 40 percent of the population faces the threat of starvation.

This report presents a guide to the fundamental issues that must be addressed to end South Sudan’s new civil war and establish peace and security. The report draws on a wealth of research and analysis from policy and advocacy groups, South Sudanese intellectuals and civil society, and Enough Project conversations over the past six months. The discussion is divided into three sections: end the war, secure the peace, and build a nation.

End the War

The most urgent need is to stop the fighting, freeze the front lines, and open up humanitarian access into areas where civilians have fled, especially as the rainy season intensifies and inhibits transportation and movement. Much of the discussion has focused on finding the right combination of leverage and military force to elicit serious commitments from both sides in the negotiations. One powerful source of leverage is the threat of multilateral sanctions against key leaders, targeting their assets abroad, especially if enforced by neighboring states where those assets are concentrated. While the U.S. has so far sanctioned two individuals, it is not likely that either has assets in the United States. The U.N. debate around multilateral sanctions has stalled. Another source of pressure is the deployment of a regional security force to bolster the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and provide protection to the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) tasked with reporting on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. These efforts more deeply involve regional powers in the process of resolving the conflict and may increase political support for sanctions by neighboring countries if the parties to the conflict continue to violate the ceasefire agreement. As long as the fighting continues, the people of South Sudan will remain in desperate need of humanitarian aid that can only be delivered if the ceasefire is maintained.

Secure the Peace

In the wake of two failed peace agreements, there is an urgent need to address the underlying issues that led to the conflict in the first place. In order to address these issues, there has been a major push from South Sudanese intellectuals and civil society to garner international support for an inclusive political dialogue that goes beyond elite power-sharing arrangements that have broken down in the past. The inclusion of civil society groups, traditional authorities, and church leaders is central to this process and will also require additional efforts beyond civil society consultations in Addis Ababa. To secure the peace, there also needs to be justice and accountability for mass atrocities, including a hybrid court, and national reconciliation. One mechanism already in place is the government-sanctioned National Platform for Peace and Reconciliation (NPPR), which includes the churchled Committee for National Healing, Peace, and Reconciliation, the Government of South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, and the Specialized Committee in the National Assembly. The NPPR was set up as an independent body to align public narratives for reconciliation in South Sudan. In order to be effective, the NPPR must maintain its independence to reach across political and ethnic divisions that pre-date the current crisis.

Build a Nation

One of the most conceptually challenging and poorly articulated objectives of international support to South Sudan has been nation-building. As scholar Jok Madut Jok points out, “the most obvious impediment to national cohesion is exclusion from the national platform, especially exclusion along ethnic lines.” In order to establish national identity, the rights of citizens should be guaranteed through inclusive democratic participation, access to economic livelihoods, and security sector reform. Government institutions will require a good deal of strengthening in order to carry out a national census, constitutional review, and national elections. Access to economic livelihoods must be secured by investing in transparency for oil revenues and the protection of community land rights—perhaps through the creation of an ombudsman’s office for economic transparency or a joint national-international oversight board. The predatory relationship between state security forces and civilians must also be addressed in order to build national cohesion and reduce ethnic tensions. The effects of trauma and alcoholism on the security forces have never been properly addressed.

The full report (PDF) provides a detailed discussion on the key issues identified above in order to end the war, secure the peace, and build a nation.