A Promising Peace Deal Reached in South Sudan

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When small, politically defined areas break away from larger nations or controlling empires, the process often involves simmering unrest that eventually spills over into violent conflict.

Depending on the reaction of the “parent” entity, the disaffection may be resolved and the smaller party brought back into the fold. Or the rebellion may be crushed and the participants jailed or prosecuted.

Often, simmer turns to boil, attempts at resolution fail, and the two sides find themselves in the midst of a war that ends if and when the smaller entity prevails and establishes its independence.

But typically, within a generation, the newly independent nation becomes embroiled in civil conflict as different factions strive to put their own stamp on the new national identity. How will the nation’s army be established and led? How will its government be structured? How will its constitution or charter be drafted?

A form of this common pattern has played out in South Sudan, currently seven years old and the world’s newest nation. In 2013, soon after establishing its sovereignty, the new government tumbled from disagreement to deadly violence. Thousands were killed during this period and four million were displaced, half of whom fled the country into the neighboring states of Sudan and Uganda.

The Khartoum-based peace negotiations taking place at the end of this violent era have been largely facilitated and supported by several entities, including the governments of these two neighbor countries, the UN, and the East African Regional Body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

On Sunday, a major breakthrough in the peace process occurred, with President Salva Kiir and his chief rival, Riek Machar, signing a deal alongside members of other opposition factions.

As explained by David Shearer, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Mr. Kiir will retain his position while Mr. Machar will be named the first of five vice-presidents.

Residents of Juba, the capital city where the deal was reached, celebrated in the streets on Sunday night. This weekend marks the end of five years of brutal conflict and a major turning point in the development of the new nation. Learn more here and join us as we follow these unfolding events.