Opportunities and Challenges of Achieving the Mission
South Sudan’s long track records of successive initiatives, combined with deep and fresh emotional wounds from the civil war suggest that the road to national healing, peace and reconciliation will be difficult. There are however, opportunities on which any attempt at reconciliation should be anchored. This framework will base its strategies on reducing the challenges while harnessing the opportunities to ensure that South Sudan this time around, achieves genuine and sustainable reconciliation.
a) Growing Public Demand: Public aversion to the return to war and continued international support to the consolidation of peace in South Sudan are strong conditions, which make the attainment of the vision for reconciliation plausible in South Sudan. The desire to heal and move on, rather than being fixated in the past, is strength common to most South Sudan ethnic communities. Reconciliation can better thrive in such a context, where there is the eagerness to put the past to rest and embrace the future;
b) Presence and Experience of a Robust Civil Society Sector: South Sudan’s civil society organizations have made remarkable contributions to peace during the long conflict history. Local churches under the umbrella of the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC) and the New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) initiated mediation between the parties and provided the blueprint for peace. The women’s movements also played a pivotal role in ending the civil war and advocating for structural transformation.
These groups have attained technical skills and built international networks that, if harnessed, can effectively ensure the implementation of the programs to be derived from the framework. The cross-religious and ethnic composition of civil society organizations is a critical platform for dialogue and reconciliation across ethnic and religious divides.
c) Ongoing Institution Building Efforts: South Sudan has made considerable progress in institution building including strengthening the justice and rule of law sector. These foundations if strengthened to be more inclusive can provide the basis for sustainable reconciliation in South Sudan.
The above opportunities (not exhaustive) intermingled with the following challenges and obstacles that must be removed to maximize the opportunities.
a) Lack of consensus on the definition and vision for peace and reconciliation: There are strong competing notions and visions for peace building and reconciliation, which make it difficult to arrive at a consensus on what constitutes peace building and reconciliation in South Sudan. Without a broad consensus on what makes for peace building and reconciliation, it is difficult to craft a national peace-building and reconciliation vision and roadmap. Political interests and historical grievances drive some of the conceptions and it will take sustained dialogue between groups to arrive at a consensus and set our country on the path of healing, peace and reconciliation. The framework recognizes this challenge as integral to the search for reconciliation.
b) Generalized trauma and impunity: The string of political violence and disruptions in the history of South Sudan as well as the nature of the violations during the civil war have contributed to deep and widespread psychological trauma across all communities in South Sudan. Most communities are stuck in the past and are desperate to find closure. It will take a long process for deeply traumatized societies to heal and recover. While this framework does not make full healing a precondition for reconciliation, it recognizes that without some measures of psychosocial healing, individuals and their communities will find it difficult to move on and to establish civic and social trust critical to recovery.
c) Lack of peace building and reconciliation champions: In most societies the success of national healing, peace building and reconciliation depends, to a large extent, on a moral and inspiring leadership with the capacity and courage to convene conflicting and estranged communities. South Sudan’s polarized political culture, further fragmented and made even more hostile during the war years, has left the country without strong reconciling and moral authority that could play a convening role for healing and reconciliation.
d) Acrimonious and hostile politics: Trust among political leaders has eroded as manifested during the 21 years of war, with political leaders referring to one another with dehumanizing names. There is also an erosion of trust between political leaders and the public.
e) Presence of leaders of the war: Still with us are former faction leaders and key supporters who hold leadership positions. In some communities the command structures from the war are seemingly intact and local government structures remain those created out of coercion during the war. In such context where the logic of the violation was to entrench impunity, it is difficult for victims to reclaim their voice, confront their perpetrators, and together heal and embrace a new future. This factor is not only the most difficult obstacle to reconciliation; it complicates the restoration of justice, rule of law, and security.
f) Limited capacity: Reconciliation in South Sudan is complex and it will require combination of skills, technical and financial resources as well as strong and coherent institutional environment to thrive. These resources are in limited supply in South Sudan. Extensive training and resource mobilization will be required to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of this framework. Click here to read the full document.
Opportunities and Challenges of Achieving the Mission