Crisis in South Sudan
South Sudan is the newest state in the world after gaining independence in 2011 following a decades-long civil war in which more than 1.5 million people have been killed. Despite, or perhaps percisely because of its vast of crude oil deposits which lie in the southern party of the country, most people are poor. One third of the population does not have access to clean drinking water and every seventh child dies before reaching the age of 5.
The preconditions that lead up to the civil war started under British colonial rule when the South was purposely underdeveloped by prohibiting free movement of people and sending British missionaries to the South to convert them to Christianity. When Sudan gained independence from Britain, two very different cultures remained. On one hand the more developed Islamic North and on the other the undeveloped but oilrich Christian South, resulting in many armed conflicts which first lead to the second Sudanese Civil War and culminated in the Secessionist War, eventually separating the South from the North. The Secessionist War was waged for 22 years and had one of the highest civilian death tolls since the Second World War. The two most important parties involved were the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government. The war officially ended with a peace agreement in 2005, granting the South autonomy for six years followed by an independence referendum in 2011. Consequently, the SPLA was not only a liberation movement and army anymore, but became the leading political party of South Sudan.
In this session we are going to discuss solutions the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. In July 2013, President Salva Kiir dismissed his deputy Riek Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup. Riek Machar denied the allegations, saying Kiir was trying to crush the opposition in order to consolidate his power, pointing to the fact that Kiir had arrested government officials affiliated with Machar. Machar escaped and called for an uprising against President Kiir. In December of 2013 ethnic tensions manifested in open clashes between the Dinka, South Sudan’s biggest ethnic group to which Kiir belongs, and the Nuer, the second largest group to which Machar belongs. The fighting resulted in the death of approximately 1000 people in two months alone, making the conflict a defacto war by common definition. Furthermore, observers have also classified it as an ethnic-tribal war. The most important parties continue to be the SPLA, with Machar as their leader and the South Sudanese government under Kiir with the UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) now added to the mix. The UNMISS is a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan deployed since South Sudan’s independence to increase security and the rule of law. Despite their UN mandate and international law the UNMISS has been under attack in the most recent civil war and blue helmets have died as a consequence. Both Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Security Council have repeatedly stressed that attacks against UN peacekeeping forces constitute a war crime. In addition to UNMISS, various humanitarian aid agencies present, trying to alleviate the humanitarian crisis. Two million people have been internally displaced and it is said that 40% of the population (4.6 million) suffer from a shortage of food. Aside from deteriorating living conditions in general, there have been reports of mass killings, abductions, rape as well as the recruitment of child soldiers.
By the end of August a peace agreement was signed between Kiir and Machar, calling for an immediate ceasefire and the demilitarization of the capital. There is to be a power-sharing transitional government, re-instating Machar as the Vice-President. Both parties are to take responsibility for the killings of tens of thousands of people and there is to be a commission for truth, reconciliation and healing. President Kiir has voiced reservations about the terms of the peace agreement, but the Security Council has called on the parties to fully implement the Peace Agreement otherwise it would consider appropriate measures, including the imposition of an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions.
Nonetheless, other peace agreements for the South Sudanese civil war have failed in the past and it still remains unclear whether South Sudan will succeed in implementing the newest agreement. Even if it does, many problems will still have to be tackled. The region has been at war for nearly five decades and will have to undergo a long rebuilding process. On the one hand the international community will have to grapple with the destruction in the area and rebuild schools, roads and other vital infrastructure such as hospitals and electricity, in order to bring the economy back on track. On the other hand the people of South Sudan have suffered on an emotional level as well. The country is heavily militarized and the revenge culture is deeply rooted in society. It is crucial to emphasize the importance of reconciliation between both fractions in society and the leaders of the country. Furthermore the perpetrators have to be brought to justice. If these underlying issues are not solved there will continue to be a breeding ground for new conflict. Research has shown that the probability for the outbreak of a new civil war is highest when the previous one has finished. This can be prevented by increasing education and job opportunities for young men and by demilitarizing the society. For post-conflict reconstruction, rectifying the economy is crucial. At the same time, the healing process needs to be considered and has to start immediately. Last but not least, the war in Darfur, located at the northern border of South Sudan, continues even after Darfur’s President Omar Al-Bashir was indicted by the ICC for genocide and crimes against humanity. The UN has also been present in Darfur with UNAMID (United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur), a joint peacekeeping mission with the African Union, since 2007.
For further research you should always consider previous resolutions on the conflict and the official statements made by the representative to the UN of the country you are representing. Below you will find a variety of further research options.
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or watch the film “pray the devil back to hell”about the Liberian post-civil war reconciliation process
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