There is now exactly a week left for warring factions in South Sudan to sign a peace deal aimed at countering spiralling instability in the region.
Armed opposition group SPLM-IO and the government of South Sudan agreed an August 17 deadline for a peace settlement when they sat down for the latest round of negotiations in March. With just a week to go, both sides need to find a non-violent resolution to a conflict that has seen tens of thousands die and more than two million people displaced since violence broke out in December 2013.
The government of South Sudan, under President Salva Kiir Mayardit, blames the fighting on a failed coup attempt by his deputy turned foe, Dr Riek Machar. For the opposition under Dr Machar, the conflict is due to problems of leadership by President Kiir.
Should both parties fail to reach an agreement by August 17 the international community, it is expected, will impose sanctions on the country. Barack Obama issued his most explicit warning in a summit held in Ethiopia a fortnight ago, citing a need to ‘raise the costs’ for those moving away from a peaceful resolution. Obama did not go into detail about exactly what would be involved in raising these costs. Likely measures include comprehensive economic sanctions. And for as long as blood flows from the fledgling nation, the threat of military involvement by external forces remains a possibility.
The talks are being led by the so-called ‘Troika’ countries of the United States, United Kingdom and Norway, plus the European Union and China, in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). IGAD is an association of East African countries including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.
Each deal proposed by IGAD since early 2014 has fallen through. Despite the best attempts of mediators and a number of ceasefire agreements signed, both sides have accused each other of breaches, multiple times.
North of the border there are some examples of what an effective, grassroots peace process looks like. The Sudanese organisation Collaboration for Peace (CfP) specialises in conflict mediation – working with tribal elders and community leaders from all factions, religions, and backgrounds to foster reciprocal, sustainable peace in the war-torn nation. They have successfully set up 14 peace committees, operating in the most volatile and turbulent regions in Sudan, comprising local representatives elected by their own communities. Peace Direct have supported CfP since 2006.
As thousands of people flood over the border between the two countries – 38,000 entered Sudan from South Sudan in June alone – the effects of localised violence in communities is clear. CfP’s remarkable success acts as a beacon of hope for communities ravaged by warfare south of the border. Their message – that locally-led peacebuilding works – is applicable now more than ever.