Since December 2013, the people of South Sudan have been involved in an ongoing war between forces of its government and the opposition forces of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). From this war, over 383,000 people have been killed and over 4 million people internally displaced. Civilian properties such as homes, cars, offices of aid agencies and hospitals have been destroyed and places of refuge have been targeted by both forces. Thus leaving the civilians to be vulnerable, as is in most conflicts. This article does not focus on the causes of the conflict but rather the effects and international responses to the conflict.
In December 2013, a political struggle between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Vice-president Riek Machar of South Sudan ensued which led to the President’s dismissal of Machar and all his cabinet ministers. The struggle erupted when President Kiir accused his Vice president and long-time rival of plotting a coup against him. Following this struggle, violence erupted within the presidential guard soldiers, between the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan, Dinka and Nuer. Soldiers from Dinka ethnic group aligned with Kiir and soldiers from Nuer with Machar. This violence has thus pitted the two largest ethnic groups in the country against each other.
For more on the conflict: South Sudan conflict
Effects of the civil war
The effects of war on a country are numerous and deadly asides from many other disadvantages. Aside from the over 380,000 people that have lost their lives, over 4 million persons have been displaced and others have lost lands and properties. In South Sudan, since the outbreak of the war, the armed forces of the government and the opposition forces have targeted civilians in different ethnic groups and villages. These forces have committed rape and sexual violence, destroyed properties and looted villages and have increased their membership of their forces with the recruitment of child soldiers. Lives have been lost and more have been displaced, contributing to the migration problem in the international community. Also resulting from the conflict are United Nations’ warnings of ethnic cleansing.
This war has prevented farmers from planting and harvesting crops, causing food scarcity in the country and in the first few months of 2017, famine was declared in the country with almost 5 million people a risk of food security in the country. This occurred again in early 2018 and food agencies warned that over 7 million people could be at risk this time.
Peace talks and the International community’s response
Since its independence, about 7600 peacekeepers had been present in South Sudan to aid nation-building efforts. In addition to this, the UN security council authorised a deployment of 6000 security troops in 2013 for the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan.The mandate of the mission changed from nation-building to civilian protection in 2014, thus authorising the use of force. In 2016, 4000 peacekeepers were added to the mission.
Kiir and Macha have been in talks and were meant to reunite in power-sharing government under the terms of the peace deals of 2015 and 2018 respectively. However, talks have been in a slow process and Machar called for a delay. Stated in the peace deal of 2015 was the need for the creation of a Hybrid court for South Sudan as a way to hold perpetrators of crime accountable for the despicable abuses committed in the conflict. Since the deal was signed in 2015, the African Union Commission has been attempting to secure approval from the authorities. South-Sudan’s government has consistently pushed back referring to it as a tool for regime change. More recently, both parties of the conflict have called for delays in peace talks and creating a united government.
South Sudan and Gainful Solutions
In April 2019, news spread that Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan had hired an American lobby group run by former US Ambassador to Kenya, Michel Ranneberger. This was done in an effort to stop the creation of a special war crimes court. AFP reported that the Gainful Solutions’ contract with the government of South Sudan states that the lobby group has been hired to “improve relations with the United States, both politically and economically”. This includes convincing or persuading Trump’s administration to “reverse sanctions and prevent further sanctions” and marshal and lead American investments in South Sudan’s oil.
The contract also states that the lobby group must delay and ultimately stop the establishment of the African Union-South Sudanese hybrid court as stated in a signed 2018 peace deal. The creation of the court dates back to earlier peace deal in 2015 with the purpose of winning justice for crimes and atrocities committed during the ongoing war.
South Sudan as a country came out of the Sudan conflict between north and south. In mediations and negotiations of this conflict, what was addressed were the differences in heritage, culture, language, religion and economic treatments between north and south and not the several ethnic differences within the country. these ethnic differences have once again opened up South Sudan to another conflict.
But all of these is a part of a bigger picture where the presence of oil also plays a role. South Sudan is an oil producing country and this opens it up to the resource curse. One of the arguments for the causes of this conflict is that both parties want control of the oil. The importance of oil in this conflict is clearly seen in the alleged contract between the government Gainful Solutions. The contract states that the lobby group opens up talks for American investments in the country’s oil reserves.
Seeing as war crimes and atrocities have become a norm in the South-Sudan conflict, seeking the use of a lobby group to stop this undermines the security of the citizens. That being said, the use of a lobbyist should be to hasten the parts of the peace deal that gives justice to victims of the war. One of the fundamental duties of a state is to provide security for its people. The government’s decision to tanker this deal obstructs this duty. Security and economic growth are contributing factors to sustainable development of a state. Hence, having these two factors present in a state with good governance is possible, and with great importance.