Hope For South Sudan as President and Rebel Leader Agree to Peace Talks
There could be light at the end of the tunnel for the more than 12 million people of South Sudan who have had to contend with violent and politically instigated clashes over the last five years. This is after president Salva Kiir agreed to meet with his rival turned foe Dr. Riek Machar for peace talks that could finally bring peace to the country.
As the youngest nation in the world right now, South Sudan has had a rocky start of self-governance after gaining independence from the larger Sudan in 2011. With Salva Kiir as president and Riek Machar as his deputy, the country kicked off with hope for building a better future for its citizens. But that was not to be as war broke out soon after with president and deputy having turned into bitter rivals.
The larger Sudan region has not been peaceful either but has been volatile since independence from the British in 1956. The First Sudanese Civil War, which started at independence, ended in 1972 and left more than half a million people dead. It was between the northern territory and the southern territory where the latter was demanding autonomy or more representation in government. The war ended with the creation of the South Sudan Autonomous Region.
The newly formed autonomous region would then barely last for ten years as the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out in 1983. The war was between the central government of Sudan and a rebel group named the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. It lasted for up to 22 years and led to the death of about 2 million people. A peace agreement was signed in 2005 and the autonomous state of southern Sudan was restored. An Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan was also formed to help govern the region which would in 2011 become officially recognized as the Republic of South Sudan.
Ethnic war broke out in the new country in 2013 after president Kiir accused his deputy Machar of plotting a coup d’état. The battle broke out along tribal lines, as Kiir’s Dinka community and Machar’s Nuer community took on each other leading to the still ongoing South Sudanese Civil War. The clash has so far led to the death of more than 300,000 people and to the displacement of more than 3 million people.
The United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have been at the forefront of trying to mediate the two heavily armed sides. Many ceasefires have been ordered and the U.N. has threatened sanctions, but war repeatedly breaks out soon after.
Now a new proposed peace deal has a chance at being the light at the end of the tunnel if it goes well. The current deal is a revival of another peace deal originally brokered in 2016 within the presidential palace. Days after that deal violence erupted and the deal was aborted. Machar quickly fled the country after that and has been under house arrest in South Africa since then.
I.G.A.D. which is brokering the current peace deal has promised Machar with freedom if he does not obstruct the peace talks and after which he will be required to relocate to any country not neighboring South Sudan. The U.N. has also renewed sanctions on the country until a peace agreement is reached.
The peace talks are expected to be held before June 30.