Barthelemy Bazemo
The memories of the two-decade long civil war leading to the independence of South Sudan in July 2011 are still vivid and fresh in the minds of most South Sudanese and people in the Horn of Africa. At the critical moment in the peace process between the North’s Bashir and the South’s John Garang , the international community led by the US, UK and Norway spearheaded a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in 2005. This blueprint paved the way for the South to assume its sovereignty. We all remember the contribution of significant international stakeholders who hailed the historic choice for self-determination of South Sudan and welcomed it into the community of Free states.
Since then South Sudan has been trying to heal the wounds of a tragic past and at the same time lay the foundation of a national identity to think and act as a nation. But this dream is threatened if the international community and especially the US do not play a leading role in resolving the current power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former vice Riek Machaar. The recent fighting on Sunday 15 aimed at toppling president Kiir showed the political instability of this young, oil-rich nation. According to our sources on the ground confirmed by the French News Agency (AFP) report, the fighting cost the lives of more than 450 people in Juba and continues to wreck havoc in five out of the ten states in the country. The fighting is increasingly taking on ethnic overtones, the Nuer against the Dinka, and threatening to spill-over to neighboring countries.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) that bravely fought the liberation war couldn’t prevent the ethnic divisions and tensions from flaring up. Rival units fought each other. The scenario many feared might happen in this fragile state seems now very possible. South Sudan is on the threshold of a civil war. Many foreign nationals from Kenya and Uganda have already fled the country and many more might follow suit if the situation gets out of control.
Reports have confirmed that the rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machaar have seized the Jonglei State capital Bor, killing and displacing civilians. In addition violence erupted and spread to various areas like Torit, capital of Eastern Equatoria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he is “deeply concerned” about the situation in the country and invited the different protagonists to talk. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an organization created to promote peace, prosperity and regional integration in the Horn of Africa, also expressed its concerns. Four of its member states (Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda) sent envoys to the troubled South Sudan Thursday 19, to initiate a political dialogue to end the crisis. But the fighting continues and the UN is sheltering more than 30,000 civilians in five state capitals, including Juba and Bor.
The urgency of the situation requires a swift and higher level intervention by the international community to resolve the crisis. The United Nations and the African Union, the United States and the European Union must get actively involved in the peacebuilding efforts of this nation that is still finding its way. The world cannot watch South Sudan sink again into another war with untold consequences for its citizens and the entire region.