(Solomon Dibaba: ENA)
As a prelude to the convocation of a national dialogue initiated by the government of South Sudan, President Salva Kirr declared a public holiday of prayer on the tenth of March 2017 to boost efforts towards peace, reconciliation, repentance, unity and forgiveness in South Sudan. Despite such positive stance, the situation in South Sudan is galloping from bad to the worst.
Despite the historic Independence Day they have celebrated on the 9th of July 2011, the Peoples of South Sudan are still unable to enjoy the fruits of their struggle. According to a UN report issued in March 2017, the country is currently plunged into a purgatory of human suffering with a constellation of human agony in the form of famine, protracted civil war, violation of human rights, rape and endless forms of human suffering, recalcitrance of the warning parties to the call for peace and tranquility in South Sudan. Children and minors who are supposed to be in school are tottering with AK 47 rifles for the purpose of which they are totally ignorant.
Prior to independence, on Jan. 9, 2005, after three years of negotiations, a peace deal was inked between Dr. John Garang, former leader of the SPLA, and the Republic of Sudan, ending Africa's longest-running civil war. Under the deal, roughly half of Sudan's oil wealth was given to the south, as well as nearly complete autonomy and the right to secede after six years. But just two weeks after Garang was sworn in as first vice president as part of the power-sharing agreement, he died in a helicopter crash during bad weather. Garang's deputy, Salva Kiir Mayardit, was quickly sworn in as the new vice president.
In July 2011, after years of fighting, South Sudan became an independent state, following a referendum that passed with 98.83% of the vote, to become the 54th African country. Thousands celebrated in the streets of South Sudan's capital, Juba. Kiir, South Sudan's president, signed the interim Constitution. According to a World Bank Report on Poverty Profile, South Sudan becomes one of the poorest countries in the world with half of the population living on less than $1 per day and an adult literacy rate of less than 25%.
The young state plunged into crisis in December 2013 amid a power struggle between the President Kiir and his Deputy, Riek Machar whom he had sacked. The fighting between government troops and supporters of Machar erupted into a conflict that killed thousands and prompted millions of people to flee their homes.
The warring parties signed a cease-fire agreement in January 2014 in Ethiopia, which collapsed within days, with both sides accusing each other of restarting the fighting. Both sides agreed to halt military operations while they negotiate further. The status of detainees, mostly supporters of Machar, remains a sensitive issue. Both sides violated the cease-fire, and negotiations in February produced few results.
In March 2015, South Sudan voted to extend President Salva Kiir's term for three years. The decision cancelled plans for 2015 elections in the civil war-torn country. Elections had been planned to be held by July 9, when the president's mandate had originally ended under the initial constitution.
In August 2015, President Salva Kiir signed an accord with Machar in an effort to end two years of conflict between the two sides. The peace deal came after the United Nations threatened to take immediate action if the two sides did not sign the accord. President Obama and African leaders threatened to increase international sanctions and impose an arms embargo if the two sides did not agree on the deal.
In the entire peace process, Ethiopia has played a major role as a country and also as a member of IGAD to solicit lasting peace for South Sudan.
Negotiations were mediated by "IGAD +" (which includes the eight regional nations as well as the African Union, United Nations, China, the EU, USA, UK and Norway).
Following the 2015 agreement in August 2015, known as the "Compromise Peace Agreement", Machar returned to Juba and was sworn in as vice-president. Following a second breakout of in Juba, Machar was replaced as vice-president and he fled to Sudan and the conflict erupted again.
Peace in South Sudan is a major precondition for promoting nation building, economic development in the country. The absence of peace in the newly independent country coupled with the influx of refugees to the neighboring countries could also jeopardize the peaceful development of the neighboring countries themselves. There is a reciprocal relationship between peace in South Sudan and the peaceful development of the countries of the Horn of Africa.
As is observed in Somalia, the absence of stability and peace could create a situation of total civil war and lawlessness as well as the proliferation of self styled terrorist groups that could obviously affect continental peace and stability.
On the other hand, South Sudan lacks all the necessary infrastructural facilities and financial backings even to finance the salaries of its public servants.
Besides, famine is threatening millions of citizens of the youngest nation. According to Daniel Yifru, IGAD South Sudan Office Coordinator in Addis Ababa, “all the ten regions of the Republic of South Sudan are facing the most unprecedented level of famine.”
Given the above bleak situation, South Sudan and all parties concerned cannot throw out the peace and independence they have gained through their struggle and scarifies.
Efforts by the international community, IGAD, AU and the UN to bring lasting peace in South Sudan must be buttressed by unreserved efforts to be made by all parties in South Sudan as critical determiners of the destiny of their country.