27 June 2014

South Sudan: No Quick Solution to Crisis

Photo: Jessica Hatcher/IRIN
Two women sit at the UNMISS base in Rumbek, Lakes State, South Sudan.

As peace talks between South Sudan's government and rebels in Addis Ababa stall yet again, aid agencies warn that the crisis is driving the nation to famine. Are flaws in the implementation of earlier deals to blame?

The US think tank Fund For Peace has declared South Sudan as the most fragile state in world, beating even Somalia to the bottom of its ranking table.

South Sudan's troubles run deep, but can be partly traced back to the recent past before it became an independent nation in 2011.

Jok Madud Jok is the founder of the South Sudanese think tank, SUDD Institute. He said the reason why the treaty signed by Sudan and southern Sudan in 2005 has failed to bring peace to either side is because the population wasn't permitted to participate in the peace process.

"It is only a peace agreement between the two leading warring parties creating two oil kleptocracies in Sudan and South Sudan, dividing the pie," he told Deutsche Welle.

New round of talks adjourned

The world's youngest country, South Sudan has been wracked by fighting between government troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels backing ex-vice president Reik Machar since December 2013.

Michael Taban, chairman of the South Sudan Council of Churches, wants the voice of the people to be heard at the peace talks

Protracted, intermittent peace talks in Addis Abba, brokered by the regional grouping IGAD, have cost over $17 milion (12 million euros), but have so far failed to stop the war. Ceasefire agreements have been violated repeatedly.

A new round of talks in Addis Ababa was to have included new players such as civil society organizations, faith-based groups and others, in addition to the government and rebel negotiators. But the rebels boycotted the talks on Monday (22.06.2014) because of a dispute over who should attend them. The talks were adjourned.

Representatives from faith-based groups include Michael Taban from the South Sudan Council of Churches. He called on the warring parties to "be serious in their talks."

Creating lasting peace will be time consuming

Churches in South Sudan say that in a previous conflict, during the long years of civil war, they were able to defuse tensions between the various factions of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) by organizing discussions in all parts of the country. Dialogue between individuals laid the foundation for reconciliation between the feuding parties. The process is much more time consuming than drawing up and signing an official treaty, but Gladis Mananju believes it is the only route to lasting peace. Mananju is one of eight advisors sent to the Addis Ababa talks by the South Sudan Council of Churches and the South Sudan Islamic Council. She is the only woman advisor.

The fighting has been marked by atrocities and aid agencies say South Sudan is on the brink of famine

Mananju told DW people were not surprised when the crisis broke out in December 2013, because the power struggle between the two sides was clearly visible and issues that were pending, such as South Sudan's constitution, were never addressed.

"The constitutional review was supposed to be done by a technical group who were supposed to go back to the citizens to seek their views, but that was not done. So a few technocrats met and developed the transitional constitution which does not reflect the interests of the people," she said.

Mananju also said most of the victims in the fighting have been women and children. The young are being "used" to carry out atrocities and she believes it is important to give women a greater say in planning and monitoring in post-conflict South Sudan.

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Date 27.06.2014

Author Jutta Schwengsbier / mc

Editor Susan Houlton

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