Violent clashes inside South Sudan’s SPLM-IO pose a threat to the peace agreement’s implementation.
South Sudan’s road to permanent stability remains precarious a decade after the nation won independence amid much hope and fanfare, as infighting rips at the tenuous coalition that governs the world’s youngest country.
According to authorities, confrontations among one group of the national unity government may have resulted in the deaths of several dozen individuals over the weekend. The resurgence of violence exacerbated long-simmering tensions and cast doubt on the viability of a precarious peace deal reached three years ago by opposing ethnic groups headed by the country’s president and vice president.
Now, little over a decade after the South Sudanese people decisively chose to secede from Sudan after years of oppressive government, the issue is whether the leaders of South Sudan’s long-warring groups can reconcile their differences and create a future together.
The nation is in desperate need of undivided and undiverted leadership at the moment, with millions of people battling to obtain adequate food, tens of thousands displaced by catastrophic floods, and an increase in coronavirus infections despite the fact that few immunizations have been given.
The battle began early Saturday between opposing factions inside Vice-President Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition’s military arm. The confrontations occurred only days after Mr. Machar’s opponents announced that they had ousted him as head of the party and the armed forces, which are a component of the country’s precarious coalition, and nominated First Lieutenant-General Simon Gatwech Dual as temporary leader.
Mr. Machar’s forces “repelled the aggressors,” who backed Lt.-Gen. Dual, during the battle in the country’s northeastern Upper Nile area, according to Colonel Lam Paul Gabriel, Mr. Machar’s party’s military spokesperson.
Each side claimed to have killed more than two dozen combatants from the other group, however neither side’s claims were independently verified.
Concerned about the increasing violence, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a regional security and trade group comprised of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya, convened an emergency meeting on Monday to address the deteriorating situation.
The hostilities came a decade after the landlocked nation declared independence from Sudan — a moment many thought would bring an end to decades of bloodshed.
However, less than two years after the triumphant independence celebrations, tensions between President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and Machar, a Nuer, erupted into a civil war that killed over 400,000 lives and displaced nearly four million.
Following almost five years of civil conflict, the country’s warring leaders came to an accord in 2018 and decided to establish a unity government last year. Mr. Machar, who had left the nation, was re-sworn in as Vice-President, and he and Mr. Kiir pledged to form an administration capable of maintaining peace and addressing the country’s key problems.
However, the uneasy coalition has not yet resolved the country’s most serious economic and political issues.
According to the United Nations, about 8.3 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance, with aid distribution hampered by a lack of infrastructure and violence against humanitarian workers. According to the UN, early seasonal flooding has displaced at least 90,000 people in at least two counties in Jonglei state this month.
Intercommunal violence is widespread, with disarmament attempts resulting in confrontations with police and the murder of scores of people a year ago.
Corruption pervades the economy, and officials have been accused of embezzling profits from oil, the government’s main source of revenue. The coronavirus epidemic has also taken a toll on people’s meagre finances, with the nation vaccinating less than 1% of its 11 million residents.
“The inevitable conclusion is that South Sudan’s postindependence leaders have failed to live up to their commitments and the expectations of South Sudanese citizens,” Luka Biong Deng Kuol, a South Sudanese academic and former minister, recently wrote in an analysis for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
Mr. Machar’s team has maintained in recent days that he remains in command and that three generals engaged in pushing for the Vice President’s removal have been dismissed.
Yet recent developments demonstrate how both Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar confront internal difficulties. While Mr. Machar’s faction has previously attempted to depose him, the President has also faced demands to resign.
These tensions threaten to become a significant impediment as elections approach in the next year or two — officials have postponed the 2022 polls but have not committed to a new timetable – and may result in fresh bloodshed.
To avoid a crisis, there has been an increasing demand for the writing and adoption of a new constitution that would more evenly divide power and guarantee justice for civil war victims.
However, with a leadership crisis, such ambitions remain distant for Africa’s youngest country, according to Alan Boswell, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for South Sudan.
Mr. Boswell said, “There is still no indication of a wider reset in South Sudanese politics.” “Instead, the divides continue to grow.”