News Column

'The People Will Overcome This Calamity'

September 2, 2014

Kimeng Hilton Ndukong

Julius Nyamkimah Fondong, a former World Bank Scholar at Harvard University and Civil Affairs Officer with the UN Mission in South Sudan, revisits the crisis plaguing the country and explains why it has so far been difficult to end the current war.

What explains the current inability of South Sudan's warring parties to form a government of national unity after last May's ceasefire deal?

It is basically due to lack of political will on the part of the two factions, namely the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA/iO). In addition, the parties have not been able to arrive at any consensus as to what the form of the national government will be. In modern day international politics, Governments of National Unity are a mechanism of resolving conflict or re-restructuring the political space so as to accommodate disenfranchised and marginalised groups.

The tricky thing about such an arrangementis that some people relinquish their positions in government so as to create room for others. And this is the one thing that the current governing class is not prepared to do. President Salva Kiir has made it clear that he will remain the President of South Sudan with or without a Government of National Unity. And Vice President WaniIgga has also said he is not going anywhere.

What has been the impact of this crisis, which has dragged on for eight months now, on South Sudan and neighbouring countries?

The UN projects that by the end of this year, more than half of South Sudan's population (about 6 million people) shall be displaced and/or starving. The immediate impact of the conflict has been the massive displacement of civilian populations. Some 80,000 are currently seeking refuge inside UN compounds in South Sudan, and millions more have crossed the border to seek refuge in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Inside South Sudan, development is at a standstill, Civil Service salaries are not being paid and oil revenues (which account for over 95 per cent of national income) are rapidly drying up. Human development indicators - that were already very bad - are now getting worse.

On the other hand, the mass displacement of people is also affecting the neighbouring countries receiving them. Ethiopia today harbours the highest number of refugees as a result of the South Sudan crisis. Sudden increases in refugee population will of course put a strain on already limited social services in the recipient countries like schools, hospitals, housing etc. Also, the conflict will lead to the proliferation of arms within the sub region, which will in turn lead to further insecurity and instability.

What future do you see for the peace talks and the young nation that was already beset by crisesless than three years after independence?

South Sudanese have a unique way of pulling themselves together and finding solutions to their common problems, even when others might have given up on them. So, I have hope. The peace talks may not be making any real progress, but I believe in the uncanny ability of the people to overcome this calamity and save their young country. They have done it many times before and I believe they will do it again. But the biggest problem is the human cost of the crisis.

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Source: AllAfrica

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