Monday, September 1, 2014


This week the warring factions of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement /Army (SPLM/A) signed a ceasefire deal in Addis Ababa.

The latest deal paves the way for a government of national unity, which will be in place for two and a half years after which an elected government will take over the reins of power.

This agreement was consummated on the sidelines of the 27th extraordinary summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The deal comes almost nine months since fighting erupted in the world’s youngest nation in December.

It is feared that hundreds lost their lives during the fighting and hundreds of millions of dollars were lost in trading revenue before the two parties fought themselves to a standstill.

As is often the case with these senseless conflicts, pragmatism prevailed over sentiment, forcing the two rival leaders --- South Sudan’s President Salvar Kiir and rebel leader Riak Machar to the negotiating table. 

It would not be a stretch to say that Uganda and Kenya were key to the resolution of this conflict. 

"Last weekend while Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was in town, he along with his host President Yoweri Museveni met Kiir in a private meeting. This was only days after Machar met Museveni.
Kenya and Ugandan businesses have been the hardest hit by the fighting and it is not unreasonable to assume that the two governments were keen to resolve the issue urgently...

In addition billion dollar rail and oil pipeline projects that need to be signed off, in which south Sudan is a key player were being held  up by the uncertainity in our northern neighbour.

Add to that the receding but ever present, spectre of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fleeing the pressure in the Central Africa Republic, taking advantage of the chaos in southern Sudan to reoccupy their bases, is a possibility Kampala cannot stomach.

Have the issues that took our northern neighbour to the brink of disaster been resolved? It’s doubtful.
The fighting came as pushback against Kiir’s need to take greater control of the government. A reshuffle that saw Machar and his allies shown the door, was straw that broke the camel’s back.

We can expect an uneasy peace over coming months as the two erstwhile rivals circle each other warily and position themselves for the elections. Not an ideal situation but might just be what is needed for tempers to cool and good sense to prevail.

The stability of nations is best guaranteed by a critical mass of middle class citizens, who are more likely to settle conflict by peaceful means than taking up arms. They will have created the requisite institutions to do this.

In 2007 when Kenya erupted into post-election violence, apart from the US’ gunboat diplomacy it was the business community which prevailed on President Mwai Kiabaki and his rival Raila Odinga to calm down. The real issues that sparked the fighting were not totally resolved, festering under the surface threatening to erupt, but the compromise has given East Africa’s largest economy some breathing space for its citizens to re-examine themselves and be wary of triggering anymore bloodshed.

"South Sudan does not have a middle class or the institutions to stabilise the situation. Even the army is not a coherent force as we know armies to be, but a hodge-podge of militias whose allegiance is to their respective war lords than to the government....

In the absence of these two, a regional commitment to maintaining peace will be critical but even this can only have limited impact. If the warring parties decide to go at it once again there is little Uganda or Kenya can do.

"Redemption may come from unlikely sources.
Both warring parties have had a taste of the oil money. One can only hope they will behave themselves if only to ensure they can continue to partake of it. A slim proposition but an indicator of the desperateness of the situation.

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