A former White House official under the Obama administration says the greatest obstacle to lasting peace in South Sudan is the ability of the leaders to provoke violence, manipulate ethnic tensions in order to seek control of land and resources.
Robert Malley, who is currently the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group says virtually everything in South Sudan, including the economy and the oil revenue, appears rigged in favor of the few at the top.
In an article published on the Atlantic Magazine, Malley and the Crisis Group’s senior analyst for South Sudan, Alan Boswell, noted that even during peace talks, the leaders do not negotiate on behalf of their constituents, but rather strike transactional deals to preserve their personal power.
It observed that during war, the armed groups typically do not fight each other directly, but they instead kill, rape, and loot from defenseless civilians.
And during peace, the elites loot public resources and stack their accounts with public funds.
Last year, the warring parties ended fighting through a revitalized agreement, and majority of the peace delegates have already returned to Juba for the implementation phase.
But recently, regional experts, civil society groups and the public have raised concerns about the luxurious spending of public funds by peace delegates in big hotels in Juba.
They called on these officials to return to their homes and preserve the money for the implementation of the agreement.
The article reaffirms that war and peace in South Sudan only benefits the elites, since they are not doing the fighting, and are not its victims.
The crisis group, however, commended the parties for the drastic decline in violence – saying the absence of war—can bring benefits to a broader community.
Recently the parties extended the pre-transitional period for six more months – to enable them assemble troops, screen, and train them into a unified army, then form the government of national unity.
This week, President Salva Kiir reiterated his call for Dr. Riek Machar to return to Juba so that they together can monitor and address challenges that may arise as the agreement is being implemented.
The group agrees that Machar’s presence in Juba would lend more time and space for the peace deal to progress without holding it hostage to wider security reforms.
But Dr. Machar has expressed his reluctance to return to Juba in the absence of concrete security arrangements.
The article by the International Crisis Group suggested that the leaders revisit previous agreement to have an external force provide protection in Juba so that Dr. Riek Machar can quickly return.
In 2016, the parties agreed to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force to protect key installations such as the airport, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and use all means necessary to deter attacks from any armed groups.
The first batch arrived in Juba in 2017, but the idea has faded with time, and was not included in the September 2018 pact.
The ICG recommends that, for the current ceasefire to hold, sustained pressure from African nations, the United States and Europe should be exerted to ensure there is strict demobilization and integration of the rival armed forces.
It says South Sudan needs fewer men with guns, not more.
The article concluded that the current stability provided by the peace agreement is far better than the likeliest alternative of a return to warfare.
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