An extract from the interview of Dr. Higashi when he spoke with Samir Ashraf, editor of the Global Observatory, on the state of the peace process in South Sudan.
According to the peace agreement, South Sudan will hold national elections 36 months after the formation of its transitional government. There are four key challenges for sustainable peace in this transitional period.
The first is that the unification of armed forces will continue to be challenging. It is important for the international community to realize that it will probably take time to complete this process. As long as South Sudan demonstrates progress, it is important for the international community to support this security sector reform, including with some funding. It is also crucial for South Sudan to keep its commitment by using some oil revenue to achieve this goal.
The second challenge relates to oil. South Sudan used to pump about 350,000 barrels of oil a day before the war. Currently, it produces about 180,000 barrels, but could reach 500,000 if secure conditions remain. The question is how South Sudan can establish a transparent mechanism for the use of oil revenue. To this end, it is vital to obtain the support of international organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to create a transparent mechanism.
The third is the increase in traditional intercommunal fighting, especially around natural resources like cows and water. It is critical to contain these conflicts. I propose that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan hire anthropologists who have rich knowledge and expertise about the traditional conflict resolution mechanism (TCRM) in South Sudan as short-term consultants and have them do field work and create specific recommendations to address these communal conflicts, possibly empowering TCRM. While I am not an anthropologist, but an international relations scholar, I am convinced that collaboration with these context-specific experts will be very important for the UN.
Lastly, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a grave threat for people in South Sudan. Three UN agencies—the Food and Agriculture Organizaion, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme—have warned that 6.5 million South Sudanese, more than half of the population, are facing severe food shortages in the hunger season between May and July. It is vital for the international community to keep monitoring the situation in conflict-affected countries like South Sudan and to support the implementation of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire to fight COVID-19. It is time for the leadership of South Sudan—as well as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and other countries at war across the world—to lay down weapons and concentrate on protecting people from the pandemic and the calamity of wars.
Given all these factors, and especially the compounding element of COVID-19, this may be the last chance for South Sudan to create sustainable peace.