Here’s how the fragile peace in South Sudan could shatter

Rebel soldiers in South Sudan in 2016. Photo source: VOA
Rebel soldiers in South Sudan in 2016. Photo source: VOA

Additional writing by Josh Wilson

The great international powers want a permanent peace — now.

The opposition promises if that if things are rushed, South Sudan’s bloody civil war will reignite, indiscriminately consuming lives, property, land and hope.

The outcomes of that war so far have been horrific — millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and the abduction and conscription of thousands of child soldiers by militias.

Deadlines and delays

With a looming November 12 deadline — and facing pressure from the United Nations, the African Union, the United States, South Africa and more than a dozen other nations — Riek Machar, the leader of South Sudan’s opposition, said major obstacles remain, such as the task of integrating the armed forces of a nation divided by civil strife.

Speaking to ABC News, one expert said that the international community should focus on resolving problems rather than rushing deadlines.

Another said that the government of South Sudan has acted in bad faith, and should face sanctions.

Machar, a former military leader, served as second-in-command and vice president to Salva Kiir, South Sudan’s president, twice — from 2011 to 2013, and again in 2016.

He was forced out of power and fled the nation both times.

Birth of a nation, and of a failed state

Founded in 2011, South Sudan split from Sudan after decades of civil war — yet the new nation rapidly dissolving into partisan political bickering along ethnic lines.

This precipitated a collapse that claimed almost 400,000 lives, and sending 2.5 million refugees pouring out of the failed state into neighboring Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Though a tenuous peace has been reached by warring parties this year, a survey of refugees found that many of the problems that caused them to flee in the first place are preventing them from returning home.

Soldiers from the central government as well as from the opposition target civilians with violence, including looting and destruction of property as a tactic to undermined support for the government, or the opposition.

Pushing for peace — and the trauma that remains

Now the United Nations, United States and African Union are pressuring South Sudan’s government and opposition to create a permanent peace and new transitional government by November 12.

Yet the deep scars of civil war persist — such as the fate of South Sudan’s former child soldiers.

There are as many as 19,000 former child soldiers in South Sudan, and critics say that government efforts to reintegrate them into society — not to mention helping them heal from trauma — have been inadequate.

One former child soldier said that taking up arms again would provide him security, food, and even camaraderie — things that, as a refugee awaiting government aid, he can only dream about.

Failure to reintegrate South Sudan’s child soldiers would just increase instability in a region already on the brink of more violence.

Sources: ABC News, Anadolu Agency (Turkey), BBC News, Stars & Stripes

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