South Sudan Peace Talk Mediated by East African Nations

South Sudan

The South Sudan Government and the rebels, led by Riek Machar, have been involved in a serious conflict since December 10. South Sudan President Salva Kiir, is blaming rebel leaders for the unrest, claiming the conflict is the fault of a coup attempt by Machar loyalists.

As peace talks are scheduled to happen in Ethiopia, new reports clashes filtered in from several locations. The East African nations like Uganda and Ethiopia are trying to mediate to end the violence, but no indication of ceasefire was seen on Tuesday.  Instead, heavy gunfire was heard on the eve of the New Year.

The U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth commented that commitment is needed from both sides to implement a ceasefire. The rebellion has attacked a lot of small cities; however, the city of Bor was the epicenter of the heavy armed clashes; the Bor City is in the oil rich state of Junglei.

Machar, the rebellion leader, was expelled by Kiir in June, along with the entire South Sudanese Cabinet. From there, Machar loyalists started to protest against the government. This action created the current rebellion and the rebels threatened to recapture the city of Bentiu. The two men are from different tribes, and have longe been political rivals. Kiir is from the ethnic Dinka group, and Machar is from the Nuer community.

According to media reports, the situation demands a round table conference immediately to ease the tension.

Almost 122,000 people have fled their homes to escape the battleground, which raises a serious question as to how long the South Sudanese people are going to suffer from the fighting. The number of innocent people caught in the conflict creates a paramount need for a ceasefire.

The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, issued an ultimatum to the Riek loyalists to join the talks. He said that if the rebels fail to attain the peace by Tuesday, military action will be taken against them. 1000 lives have already been lost in this rebellion with no real positive efforts toward peace by the conflicting groups. The peace talks were supposed to be held at Addis Ababa and a delegation from Riek Machar did reach the Ethiopian capital. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was supposed to act as the chair and mediator of the meeting.

With the rising tensions and reports of new gun battles pouring in, information on the meeting was unable to reach the media until now. South Sudan is a country in its infant stage; the newest addition to Africa has a population in which only 15 percent have cell phones. The development of this nation has been one of the slowest in Africa due to the continued unrest. In comparison, the East African nations like Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda have been developing at a better rate. The fact that the peace talks between the two conflicting parties of South Sudan were mediated by some of these faster developing nations could have a lot of significance in terms of international affairs.

Editorial By Sunando Basu

Washington Post

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