By Chase Lacy
By Chase Lacy
Rabat – Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar signed a peace agreement to end the young country’s brutal 4.5-year civil war.
The deal, made in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, was signed in the presence of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
After the ceremony, Machar said to reporters that the ceasefire would end the war and open a new page for South Sudan.
Provisions of the agreement
The agreements’ provisions include the ending of hostilities, opening routes of humanitarian aid, the release of political detainees and other prisoners, and, within four months, the formation of a unity government to govern for a period of 36 months until free and fair elections are held.
An additional part of the deal also allowed members of the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to deploy forces to enforce the ceasefire. This provision has been very unpopular amongst the opposition factions in South Sudan; many believe this allows Sudan and other states to meddle in South Sudanese affairs.
The latest peace agreement engendered cautious optimism; the last agreement in August 2015 fell apart completely when intense fighting erupted in the capital Juba in July 2016. Just last week, the first round of talks mediated by the reformist Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, failed to resolve disagreements.
In addition there are many factions that were not included in the agreement, and dealing with their contention will be a major challenge to implement the deal.
A bloody past
The conflict in South Sudan began in December 2013, when President Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup d’etat against him. The political crisis fomented a serious conflict with an ethnic element. Forces largely rallied along tribal lines between Kiir’s predominant Dinka tribe and Machar’s Nuer.
The war has ravaged South Sudan’s agriculture, destroyed its economy, and displaced approximately 3 million people. According to the international humanitarian group CARE, 7 million people of the country’s 12 million are in need of food aid.
Not only has the country been put on the brink of famine, but it has created the largest refugee crisis in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Though it is very difficult to accurately gauge due to conditions on the ground, the civil war has killed an estimated 50,000 to 300,000.
Reports of human rights abuses in South Sudan have been horrific, ranging from eye-gougings, hackings, mutilations, castrations, beheadings, and the pervasive use of gang rape as a weapon. People living in the many UN refugee camps are terrified to leave for fear of roaming armed groups and gangs.