President Salva Kiir and Vice-president Riek Machar have ordered a ceasefire to put an end to hostilities between their respective troops that could potentially send the country into another civil war. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, reported Wednesday, 13 July that 36 000 civilians had been displaced by the fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and the SPLM in Opposition.

“The current situation in the country remains fluid and uncertain,” said Ladsous in his briefing to the Security Council on the happenings of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), whose mandate will expire at the end of the month.

President Salva Kiir and Vice-president Riek Machar have ordered a ceasefire to put an end to hostilities between their respective troops that could potentially send the country into another civil war. Photo credit: Afribuku
President Salva Kiir and Vice-president Riek Machar have ordered a ceasefire to put an end to hostilities between their respective troops that could potentially send the country into another civil war. Photo credit: Afribuku

He added that the Mission be reinforced through additional troops and armed support such as attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles in order to fill the mandate that aims to protect civilians but will answer to the same chain of command as all other UN-related troops.

The world’s newest nation

South Sudan is home to Africa’s longest succession of civil wars that commenced just a year before its independence from the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, the joint British and Egyptian government that administered the former Sudan, in 1956. According to the Sudan Tribune, the first civil war occurred in 1955 witnessing the rise of the civilian Anya-Nya Movement, which was a response to General Ibrahim Abboud’s military regime that seized the country in 1958 until 1964 following severe economic difficulties and political tensions. In 1972, peace agreements in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, temporarily ended the war until 1983 when conflict erupted once more starting the second civil war.

The second battle lasted two decades between the Central Sudanese government, considered pro-Arab Imperialism, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Pan-Africanist. After mass blood-shed, in January 2005, the North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) called for a permanent ceasefire in which the south was granted autonomy and addressed issues of religious and cultural diversity, rural marginalization, power-sharing, land reform and a transformation toward democratic governance. After further years of conflict and tension, this agreement would lead to a 98% vote referendum that would bring about the political divorce between North and South Sudan in 2011.

South Sudan celebrated its independence on 9 July 2011, however, the joyous occasion would be short lived where two years later a civil war would break in the new nation between government and rebel groups. The idea of having a joint and interethnic government between President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka, and Vice-President Riek Machar, of the Nuer, was to bring about a compromise in the nation so that peace would be sustained and ethnicity-related conflict cease.

However, according to the Telegraph, the armed conflict began in the capital of Juba in December 2013, following the President’s decision to let go of his VP in July, where military units were attacked across the city. The President believed Machar was intent on seizing power by attempting a military coup. Whereas Machar stated that he had not planned a coup, and rather the unrest was brought about by a misunderstanding within the Presidential Guard. Machar went on to say that he and his followers were the victims of attack for having called Kiir’s presidency a dictatorship.

According to the Sudan Tribune, one of the main reasons for the tension between Kiir and Machar, in conjunction with cultural differences, can be traced to a proposed national reconciliation conference, which the President chose to suspend until he could form his committee to prepare the event, which was supposed to be overseen by Machar. The President was believed to have slowed the process for the conference and restricted reconciling communities who were experiencing violent conflicts. Machar was eager for the conference to be underway, hoping that it would address issues of tribalism, good governance, justice, development, resource distribution and other problems affecting the new nation. Matters worsened when further rivalry and misunderstanding occurred between the two leaders involving the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s chairmanship in the upcoming convention. In August 2013, after having dismissed Machar, Kiir appointed James Wani Igga as South Sudan’s new Vice-President.

South Sudan saw a pendulum swing between peace talks and conflict for the next three years, however in April 2016, Machar returned to the city of Juba where he was immediately appointed as Vice-President once more. This move was supposed to incite peace in the nation. Both President and Vice-President agreed to a ceasefire on 11 July 2016. However, reported fighting that has occurred over the past few days of the second week of July has set off warning bells of another humanitarian crisis to happen in the country. On Wednesday, 13 July, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported approximately 272 dead due to the clashes between government and rebel forces.

According to UNICEF, the conflicts in South Sudan have affected thousands of people, especially vulnerable women and children. The agency had dispatched four trucks of supplies from its warehouses and taken to the UN displacement site in the city on Wednesday 13 July. UNICEF also plans to implement a family tracing project for displaced children and aims to affect about 50 000 people.

International interest in South Sudan

Former Sudan has been the site of international interest even long before it separated into its northern and southern nations. From Israel supporting the Anya-Nya Movement in the 1960’s against Arab-oriented rule; to strengthened ties with Libya after the coup that lead to the downfall of pro-western and the US supported former Sudanese President Jaafar Numeiri in the 1980’s; to full diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2011; both Sudan have been the hub of international arousal for decades, but especially in the south since it received its independence. The question is why?

It is no secret that Sudan is rich in oil and is one of the world’s sources of the production and exportation of petrol. The independence of South Sudan kept three quarters of the former Sudan’s oil reserves, while the refineries are stationed in the north. In fact, according to an article posted in May this year in Oil Price, the new nation had announced that it would resume petrol production in July this year, after a hiatus of two years due to violent conflicts.

However, South Sudan’s landlocked geography makes it difficult for the nation to transport its oil and therefore relies on Sudan’s pipelines to the Marsa Bashayer port along the Red Sea. Previously, Sudan charged South Sudan $24,50 in transit fees but in February 2016, the nations were in accord that the charges would depend on prevailing crude oil prices.

Granted, there have been countless civilians caught in the crossfire between government and rebel forces over the years for which the African Union says “accountability,” “reconciliation” and “healing” need to be ensured by and among the African Union member states, as to find African solutions to African problems.

At the same time, the question that arises here is whether it is a coincidence that the month that the country was to recommence oil production, the media are swarming with pictures of displaced, starving children and dead bodies, instilling fear, and sympathy for a potential humanitarian crisis. The answer is open to interpretation.

Source: United Nations News Centre