South Su­dan says peace agree­ment dif­fer­ent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY MAJAK KUANY

JUBA, SOUTH SU­DAN | John Achiek Mabior lost his father in his coun­try’s five-year-long civil war. Given where the coun­try is to­day, the son says his father in some ways may have been the lucky one.

“He was shot on his left thigh and later died of the gun wound,” said Mr. Achiek Mabior, a 30-year-old Juba res­i­dent. “Many lives have been lost since the war started. Peo­ple are suf­fer­ing be­cause there’s no pro­vi­sion of ba­sic needs by the gov­ern­ment.”

The world’s youngest na­tion, mid­wifed with a ma­jor as­sist from U.S. di­plo­macy and dollars in 2009, is al­ready at a cross­roads, strug­gling for a small respite of sta­bil­ity to ad­dress a ris­ing tide of so­cial prob­lems. De­spite South Su­dan’s mori­bund econ­omy, tribal con­flicts, pe­ri­odic famines and other hard­ships, Mr. Achiek Mabior in­sists he is hope­ful about the lat­est peace deal, signed last month by Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir and his long­time ri­val, for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent and now rebel leader Riek Machar.

“I am over­joyed be­cause peace has fi­nally been re­stored in our coun­try, and this means we will now re­build our lives and peo­ple will live in har­mony,” he said.

Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar signed the deal in Ethiopia on Sept. 12, but skep­tics note that it was not the first time they had reached a truce. Fight­ing re-erupted af­ter pre­vi­ous deals. Al­though vi­o­lence has con­tin­ued in var­i­ous parts of the coun­try in re­cent weeks, South Su­danese of­fi­cials said fight­ing re­flected lo­cal con­flicts rather than a re­sump­tion of the civil war.

This time, South Su­dan watch­ers say, could be dif­fer­ent. Eight coun­tries in the re­gion as well as the African Union are serv­ing as guar­an­tors of the peace. The deal also in­cludes more ex­ten­sive power-shar­ing pro­vi­sions than pre­vi­ous agree­ments.

“The process al­lowed for those who didn’t have an op­por­tu­nity to have their voices heard to be­gin putting across their var­i­ous view­points,” said South Su­danese Vice Pres­i­dent Ta­ban Deng Gai told the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly last month.

The op­ti­mistic mes­sage is prov­ing a tough sell in Wash­ing­ton de­spite the in­ti­mate U.S. in­volve­ment in es­tab­lish­ing the coun­try. Mr. Deng Gai’s de­fense of the lat­est peace deal got a frosty re­cep­tion at a closed­door brief­ing for cur­rent and for­mer U.S. of­fi­cials last week at the At­lantic Coun­cil think tank, ac­cord­ing to an ac­count of the ses­sion on For­eign­Pol­icy.com.

“Don’t at­tack [the peace deal],” Mr. Deng Gai pleaded at the pre­sen­ta­tion, ac­cord­ing to For­eign­Pol­icy.com. “Don’t un­der­stand it with the frame of mind of a Westerner or an Amer­i­can frame of mind. We are still a Be­douin so­ci­ety where ac­com­mo­da­tion also is im­por­tant. Ac­com­mo­da­tion also brings peace.”

The U.S., Bri­tain and Nor­way in Septem­ber is­sued a joint state­ment call­ing for peace in South Su­dan and say­ing the war­ring fac­tions must make “sig­nif­i­cant change” to over­come in­ter­na­tional skep­ti­cism that the deal will hold.

Eu­nice Amer Manyok said she and her neigh­bors in Juba have suf­fered so much that they had to be op­ti­mistic or else give up all hope. It has be­come in­creas­ingly clear that no one fac­tion can win the war, she said.

“As women of South Su­dan, we have suf­fered enough,” Ms. Amer Manyok said. “Enough is enough. This is a time we now need to im­ple­ment this peace agree­ment fully.”

A State Depart­ment-funded study found that al­most 400,000 peo­ple died in the civil war. Half of them died in fight­ing. Dis­ease, a lack of health care and other dis­rup­tions to pub­lic ser­vices killed the rest.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­leased a re­port last month ac­cus­ing gov­ern­ment forces of car­ry­ing out war crimes in the north­ern state of Unity, a rebel strong­hold. The re­port de­scribed sol­diers burn­ing civil­ians alive, slam­ming chil­dren to death against trees and other hor­rors.

Work­ing to­gether

Un­der the deal, Mr. Machar will re­gain his po­si­tion as vice pres­i­dent. Ms. Amer Manyok felt that move could sat­isfy rebels and po­ten­tially rein in ram­pag­ing gov­ern­ment sol­diers.

“This [fact] alone has given us a lot of hope and faith that the pres­i­dent and op­po­si­tion leader will work to­gether,” said Ms. Amer Manyok, who chairs the Women’s Bloc of South Su­dan, a loose coali­tion of lo­cal groups cam­paign­ing for women’s rights. “So I think now enough is enough for them, and this is why I think they will im­ple­ment this peace.”

Den­nis Sco­pas, an­other Juba res­i­dent, ar­gued that the eight-month tran­si­tional pe­riod in the pact would help the par­ties re­build trust as they im­ple­ment the agree­ment in the next three years.

“The eight months will ad­dress a lot pend­ing is­sues such as the num­ber of states, bills and per­ma­nent con­sti­tu­tion,” Mr. Sco­pas said.

Univer­sity of Juba po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist James Okuk also pre­dicted that the agree­ment would hold, if only be­cause both sides are too ex­hausted and broke to keep up the fight.

“Peo­ple are tired of war, and you can’t mo­bi­lize young peo­ple any­more to go and fight the mas­sive war like they used to do,” Mr. Okuk said.

The gov­ern­ment is also run­ning out of cash amid pun­ish­ing sanc­tions im­posed for hu­man rights abuses per­pe­trated dur­ing the fight­ing, Mr. Okuk said. Mr. Kiir’s rebels are find­ing it hard to sus­tain their ef­fort af­ter years of fight­ing, es­pe­cially since they have been forced to cross into neigh­bor­ing coun­tries and must elude for­eign forces.

“Sur­vival out­side in the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries is very tough for the op­po­si­tion,” said Mr. Okuk. “Both the war­ring par­ties are fac­ing tough eco­nomic sanc­tions di­rectly or in­di­rectly, and those sanc­tions don’t al­low them to pur­sue war fur­ther.”

The African Union wants to make a test case of South Su­dan to show­case the bloc’s abil­ity to end wars and re­bel­lions in Africa in the next two years. “The African Union wants to see to it that this war comes to an end,” he said.

Many here share the skep­ti­cism in Wash­ing­ton.

Atem Si­mon, a Juba-based journalist, ex­pressed lit­tle faith in the African Union or any­one else to guar­an­tee any peace deal. The AU’s prom­ises haven’t held up in the past, he said.

“The lack of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s po­lit­i­cal will and fi­nan­cial sup­port to­ward the South Su­danese lead­ers will hin­der the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the deal,” Mr. Si­mon said. “It is not go­ing to lift peo­ple’s suf­fer­ing.”

But Thom­son Fon­taine, a cit­i­zen of Do­minica who is deputy chief of staff of the Joint Mon­i­tor­ing and Eval­u­a­tion Com­mis­sion, which is mon­i­tor­ing the peace deal, said he hoped re­newed oil pump­ing would help re­vi­tal­ize the coun­try’s econ­omy and con­vert skep­tics.

“Full com­pli­ance to the agree­ment is very crit­i­cal to build con­fi­dence and pro­vide an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for the much-needed fo­cus on the growth of the econ­omy, among other things,” Mr. Fon­taine said.

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