What must be done--now
Political leaders in South Sudan who do not commit to an immediate cessation of hostilities, without conditions, help ensure that the current catastrophe will intensify with frightening speed. Modalities and mechanisms for formal cease-fire monitoring can be negotiated at greater leisure; what cannot wait another day is a military stand-down by both sides. The place to begin is Bor, now under control of Riek's forces and--according to SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer--fighting has already begun to move southward toward Juba (Washington Post [Nairobi], January 3, 2014). Other reports from the BBC (January 3) have the SPLA beginning an offensive against Bor involving tanks and artillery.
Why does Riek not declare a cease-fire in light of all this? His strategy here may be that described by a military analyst speaking to The Economist (January 3, 2014):
Machar may be able to hold the fledgling country's oil infrastructure to ransom. If he can chalk up some early victories--for instance, by taking and holding Bor--he may be better placed to sue for peace. As things stand, South Sudan may face a long civil war.
It is beyond dispiriting to think of the people of South Sudan once more "facing a long civil war." All causes, all personal interests, all quests for seizing or holding power must give way before the desperately urgent need to forestall such a war.
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