The conflict in South Sudan has political and ethnic origins. In December 2013, South Sudan president Salaa Kiir sacked his vice-president Riek Machar following days of meeting of the National Liberation Council of the ruling Sudan Peopke’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and fighting erupted in the capital of Juba on December 15th. Kiir, a Dinka accused Machar, a Nuer, of a failed coup. Machar rallied his Nuer supporters, including many members of the armed forces to form the SPLM-In opposition (SPLM-IO) in order to seize control of the government. Since then, the fighting occurred in the Jonglei region and surrounding areas. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, the conflict has displaced 1.8 millions people and around 50 000 were killed.
Since then, many attempts were made to sign a cease fire. The two parties agreed to sign a cease fire in Ethiopia’s Capital in late august but both leaders accused each other of breaking the terms of the cease fire.
According to Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, there are still deep division in South Sudan since the 2011 independence from Sudan, and this could lead to revenge killings.
“Breaches of the ceasefire agreement and the failure of the parties to meet the initial deadlines articulated for the preparatory phase of the peace agreement’s implementation, call into question their commitment to the peace process,” Ban wrote.
The UN mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) objectives are to “support the Government in peace consolidation and thereby fostering longer-term state building and economic development; assist the Government in exercising its responsibilities for conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution and protect civilians; and help the authorities in developing capacity to provide security, establishing the rule of law, and strengthening the security and justice sectors in the country.”
New peacekeepers needed in South Sudan
Originally there were 7000 military personnel deployed with a contingent of 900 polices officers and some civilian volunteers in 2011. When the hostilities began in 2013, the UN authorized 12 500 soldiers and 1323 police officers and now Ban is asking for 1100 more peacekeepers. The Security Council will have to decide on this decision and renew the mission mandate in December.
Pressure from the international community was able to force the two factions to sign the cease fire in august. A renewed, unilateral intervention from the international community urging both parties to honour the cease fire with the menace of sanctions against individuals could force a temporary peace in this fragile country.
Political conflict is not the only challenge the country face: there are the issue of ethnic distribution in the government, the issue of petrol production in the country’s north and the general appalling humanitarian condition of the population.