By Deng Machol
Juba – On Thursday, South Sudan celebrated its ninth year of independence. The promise from that historic moment when the country became the world’s youngest nation has since fizzled leaving behind a painful trail of anguish from a bloody civil war that has dogged the country since 2013.
Many inhabitants of its southern region and other peripheral areas were frustrated with what they described as lack of autonomy, marginalization, oppression and neglect from the central government, while Khartoum regime was either unable or unwilling to resolve these long-standing issues peacefully.
This resulted to Southerners’ rebellion in a 1983, lasted for two decades, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2005 in Naivasha – Kenya.
However, the people of Southern voted overwhelmingly for secession in a 2011 referendum.
On the 9th of July 2011, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan after the decades of earth – scorched civil war as the outcome of a 2005 agreement to end Africa’s longest civil war, during which 2.5 million people were killed and 4 million displaced.
At the time, the US –backed secession was hailed as a way forward to peace and stability but it did not end the plight of the South Sudanese.
Nine years on, conflict is still a fact of life in many parts of the country, as the previous fighting between Khartoum and Juba gave way to infighting among the South Sudanese.
Civil war broke out in 2013, when President Salva Kiir fell out with his vice president Dr. Riek Machar, who accused of staging a coup.
The two leaders represent South Sudan’s two largest ethnic groups. Their [Kiir and Machar] provoked a largely ethnic conflict that killed up to 380,000 people and uprooted 4 million people from their homes over five years.
Although a peace deal was signed in August 2018 between president Kiir and ex – rebel leader, SPLM-IO Dr. Machar, ceasefire was partial held but bloodshed and instability persist plus stalling of the peace process.
The UN Mission in South Sudan allegedly recorded 415 violent incidents in the first five months of 2020 alone.
Armed conflict continues between the government and non-signatories to the peace agreement in some areas, while in others, inter-communal violence fueled by competition over resources, easy access to arms and weak rule of law is on the rise.
President Salva Kiir, in his keynote speech for ninth anniversary, said this year, public’s celebration has been affected by the COVID – 19 pandemic outbreaks in the worldwide.
President said the permanent ceasefire is largely holding while interrupted by coronavirus and inter – communal violence across the country.
“Unfortunately, our success in ending political violence is now threatened by a different sort of violence; inter – communal conflict that is ragging in different parts of our country,” said president Kiir. “As the government, we will not allow this new threat to reverse our gains. We shall pursue a multi-layered approach to resolve this problem once and for all.”
Kiir said his government in due days will initiate inter and intra – communal dialogue so that they can address the root causes of this fighting both between and within the communities.
“Alongside this process, we shall launch a full – scale disarmament of the civil population, an exercise which is already underway in some parts of the country,” said Kiir.
Despite what have achieved in terms of implementing the revitalized peace deal, Kiir admitted that he is acutely aware that the peace implementation remains painfully slow and far below people’s expectations.
“We must therefore collectively act in a decisive fashion to pick up the pace in resolving sticky issues in the implementation of the agreement,” said Kiir.
President Kiir further calls upon the parties to the peace deal to sort out impasses matters through amicable political understanding.
“It is also critical that we, the parties to the agreement desist from adopting uncompromising positions in the hope that the mediation will eventually back them. We must move away from such attitudes because the peace we seek to consolidate is our own peace as South Sudanese – it is only us who stand to benefit or lose in its success or failure,” Kiir said. Our regional partners and the international community are only there to lend support, but they will never prescribe solutions to our problems. Therefore we must find ourselves through meaningful and genuine dialogue geared towards finding practical solutions rather than scoring political points or maneuvering for future political advantage,” he added.
Hopes of a peaceful
Despite fears of an uncertain future, citizens of South Sudan, who spokes to this media, cling to the hopes of a peaceful South Sudan.
David Wol, Juba resident, is maintaining up hopes along his country’s road to lasting peace through small step.
Violence come and go, so we still hope for peaceful country, said Martha John, Juba resident.
I believe that this country will soon get back to its feet despite these uncertain matters,” Wol said.
The observers need the peace government or parties to come together in unity and peace to respond to this new threat to the country, especially inter – communal violence.
The UN mission in South Sudan said the South Sudanese leaders should reflects the reasons they waged longest wars to be free and then collaborate to settle unresolved matters to achieve vibrant nation.
“It was a proud moment for the people who fought so hard for the right to determine their own future,” said UNMISS in the press statement, today. However, there is still much work that needs to be done to end the outbreaks of violence and to ensure that we have a truly unified government that makes collaborative decisions in the best interests of its citizens,” added in its part.
President concluded by saying “let us all work tirelessly irrespectively of our political leanings to restore trust among ourselves and to amend the social fabric that was torn apart by war we are now putting behind us. Let us all desist from unnecessary propaganda and instead work together as South Sudanese to put our country permanently on the path of peace.”
South Sudan’s rival leaders officially started the process of forming a transitional coalition government in late February after it was postponed twice, but the security arrangements remained so challenges, which remains trigger violence.
Secession was hailed as the path to peace, freedom but it has been blighted by violence and corruption in the landlocked country.
Moreover, the citizens and analysts believe the current leaders have betrayed the ideals that they fought for, including the vision of the late Dr. John Garang. South Sudanese leaders are yet to move the country towards sustained peace and development.