VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga has lamented that while war is an occasional and passing occurrence in many parts of the world, peace in South Sudan has been turned into an occasional visitor that rarely visits for no longer than a few days at a time.
But Mwaanga says it is now up to the South Sudanese leaders to demonstrate seriousness, maturity and love for their people who have suffered beyond description.
In a press statement titled ‘South Sudan’s troubled peace and its implications on regional peace,’ Mwaanga stated that now was time that all the key players in South Sudan realised the great economic potential of that country, “whose potential has not been realised simply because of instability.”
South Sudan gained political independence from Khartoum in January 2011.
“While war is an occasional and passing occurrence in many parts of the world, in South Sudan peace has been turned into an occasional visitor that rarely visits for no longer than a few days at a time,” Mwaanga noted.
“War has been normalised and the sight of children running away from conflict is more common than that of seeing them playing. This is not how any society should be and the leaders know this only too well.”
He indicated that for some time now, he had been writing about the problems in South Sudan and that such had had major implications on peace in the horn of Africa and in east and Central Africa.
Mwaanga added that the conflict in South Sudan had disappointed many countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and “the Americas which supported the independence of South Sudan financially and materially.”
“It was unfortunate that its highly respected leader John Garang died prematurely in [a] helicopter accident, before independence was attained from Sudan in 2011,” he noted.
“South Sudan, like a number of countries before it, was born out of a protracted civil war with Salva Kiir as President and Riek Machar as his Vice-President. In 2013, tensions that had built up between the two men deteriorated into armed conflict when Kiir accused Machar of planning a coup against him.”
According to UN data, five years of armed conflict in South Sudan led to at least 50,000 deaths, most of whom civilians.
It is estimated further that nearly four million South Sudanese have been displaced since the fighting began and that many others have fled to neighbouring countries like Uganda, DRC, Kenya and even Zambia.
“Although outwardly, this appears to be a political conflict, in reality it has tribal overtones involving the Dinka and Nuer tribes. This highlights the dangers of tribal divisions which still exist on our continent and which continue to pose grave danger to nation states of Africa,” Mwaanga stated.
“After many years of fighting between the political factions and the Dinka and Nuer tribes, Kiir and Machar agreed to reinstate a power-sharing agreement in August, 2015. Less than a year later, in July 2016, the power-sharing agreement collapsed and with it went any semblance of peace and political order.”
Both Kiir and Machar have been accused of war crimes and widespread tribal and militia violence.
“Not surprisingly, the humanitarian situation has been dire and has negatively impacted women and children,” Mwaanga stated.
“More recently, regional leaders have been involved yet again in efforts to bring about peace and national reconciliation in Sudan. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni and the President of Sudan Al Bashir have worked hard to seek a new comprehensive peace agreement and ceasefire, which has yet again been signed by the warring parties in South Sudan.”
The peace agreement is aimed at ending five years of civil war which reinstates Machar (a Nuer) as Vice-President and retains Kiir (a Dinka) as President.
“I can only hope that both sides will honour and faithfully adhere to the terms of the new agreement and bring honour to our continent which has been ravaged by war and conflicts, at a time when the world, with a few exceptions, is slowly moving towards recognising the importance of peace, dialogue and reconciliation, both inter and intra,” Mwaanga stated.
“People of goodwill the world over should support implementation of the new peace agreement in South Sudan, which I hope will represent the difference between war and peace. It is also important to commend countries which have worked hard and sacrificed so much to bring about the new peace and ceasefire agreement and those that have borne the brunt of South Sudanese refugees, such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, IGAD States, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, the United States of America, the European Union, Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia and others.”
Mwaanga stated that it was now up to the South Sudanese leaders to demonstrate seriousness, maturity and love for their people “who have suffered beyond description.”