South Sudan Civil War: the causes and the possible solutions.
“Conflict is undesirable. In its violent form, it claims the lives of many people, destroys property, and diverts human as well as financial resources away from development”.(Alexander Attilio, 2002).
A diagnosis of South Sudan civil war always generates heated and emotional debates. This is largely because the conflicts have cost the country dearly in so many aspects. According to the United Nations Report (2014): “Ten thousands have been killed, two million have fled to neighboring countries, and extra judicial killings have been recorded, thus the food insecurity has increased from 1.1 million to 3.2 million”.
Therefore, the study of the country’s civil war has attracted so many scholars from different academic circles including: sociologist, anthropologist, and political scientist, among others. To be sure, two schools of thought have emerged to explore the causes of South Sudan’s conflicts: the externalist and the internalist. “Externalists” ascribe the country’s crisis to factors beyond their control including: international interventions into the country’s internal affairs in order to exploit its natural resource, and bad neighboring policies.
Disciples of this school comprise mostly from South Sudanese political leaders, scholars, intellectual, and radicals. To make sense of their argument, the below accounts might help explain;
First; The threat made by both the United States Government(US) and the United Nations (UN) to place the country under international trusteeship(see Lyman & Knopf,2016 documents on South Sudan) perceived by them to be as a conspiracy meant to snatch the country from exercising sovereignty over its territory.
Second , the United Nation Security Council Resolution No: 2304 (in 2016) that authorized deployment of 4,000 UN peacekeeping force to South Sudan ,attached with the diabolic role played by the United Nation Mission in South Sudan(UNMISS); such as the uncovered UNMISS trucks that were moving weapons branded as building materials. “The weapons were packed in crates whose labels said they contained food rations, and under the terms of its agreement, the UN is only allowed to ship its peacekeepers weapons by air, not by land.” Reported by Foreign Policy Journal (March 18, 2014).Another serious incident that exposes U.N’s credibility and impartiality in South Sudan was the extraction of the leader of armed opposition Dr.Riek Machar ,his wife, and hundreds of his soldiers from DRC—South Sudan border into care of DRC’s authorities (see VOA,2015).
Third , the findings of a study conducted by Conflict Armament Research (CAR, 2015) on “Weapons and Ammunition Airdropped to SPLA-IO Forces in South Sudan,2015” shows that Sudan supplied weapons and ammunition to SPLM-IO in 2012 before the conflict and in 2014 during the conflict. Alike, the report of United Nations Secretary-General on South Sudan (covering the period from 18 November 2014-10 February 2015) asserted that, “Sudan Armed Forces aircraft, bombed Deim Jalab in Raga County and seven civilians were killed and two others were injured”. All this damning evidence exposes Sudan’s secret role in fueling the conflicts.
In the flight of the above evidence, the externalist proponents, concluded that South Sudan’s woes were sparked by the cited external factors.
Much contrary to externalists, the “internalist” blames internal factors (social, political, and economic) for landing the country into this awkward situation. Ironically, the followers of this sect include: the United Nation (UN) agencies, US government officials, the troika, AU, western scholars, South Sudanese intellectual and opposition figures among others.
They “ internalist” relies primarily on findings of studies and reports on South Sudan crisis which were done by Alex De Waal (2016), James Copnall (2014), UN (2014, 2015, &2016), Amnesty International (2016), and South Sudan Human Rights Report (2015), which collectively asserts that internal social ,political and economic factors exemplify by, “post-independence social transformation, diversity, underlying tribal tension within the SPLM/A, inequality, the legacy of past wars, greed and grievances ,resources curse, liberation curse , power struggle, and so forth ,were the components that ignited the current civil strife . They even when further by blaming the failure to manage these ingredients to the country’s leadership.
Although, generally, the arguments made by internalist and externalist sounds seductive to explain the causes of post-independence crisis, however, I must contend that their perspective as individually (as each school on itself) misrepresented the deep root causes of the country’s civil conflict.
Wherefore, my own position is that the root causes of civil war is intersecting or interconnected domestic and internal factors. The interplay of both factors stoked the flames on the current civil war.
The question that begs for an answer is that: What are the possible solutions to the conflict? Albeit, it is now common knowledge that the IGAD’s brokered Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS, 2015) has proven itself to be a bad recipe for our social, political, and economic ills, as evident by the July 2016 clash. But arguably, the agreement has brought to some degree — the stability in the country.
Furthermore, despite some encouraging results of the National Dialogue (ND) which was initiated by the President General Salva Kiir Mayardit — to rebuild national consensus over supreme national issues, peace, stability, forgiveness, healing, amongst others. Still, to bring the country’s comprehensive problems under control, the national dialogue should be strengthen to effect the following as possible solutions;
Peaceful discussion and resolution of outstanding differences among the actors of the conflict
Addresses the fundamental issues of governance, political inclusiveness, reform, resource-sharing, tribalism , and social equality at a national level;
A national dialogue should be broadly inclusive; its exercise and outcomes should recognize and accommodate the country’s unique diversity of peoples, cultures, and religions; and such a dialogue must necessarily include the government , armed and unarmed opposition movements, political parties, a broad range of civil society representatives, and constituents from every region of South Sudan;
A national dialogue should create a conducive environment to bring about meaningful participation of all of the country’s diverse constituents, free from any restrictions to the right to assembly or the right to freedom of expression
Denying opportunity for foreign interference in our internal affairs
Investigation and prosecution of individuals bearing the responsibility for violation of international domestic laws.
Permanent constitution-making process with clear parameters of the permanent constitution including the recognition of federal system as the popular demand of the people of South Sudan
Institutional and policy review and reform in the economic sector with the aim of making South Sudan able to diversify its economy, improve its appalling records on corruption, and to use oil revenues for the best interest of its citizens, not only in terms of improving their living conditions, but also in terms of good and sound economic governance.
Attainment of social justice in all aspects of life: Health, education, distribution of national resources, participation in the leadership of the country, equal opportunity to employment (meritocracy),
Fighting any form of inequality and discrimination by making policies that support gender and eliminate discrimination
Developing educational curricula that cater for the societal needs and transform the society from the abject poverty and illiteracy into an enlightened society.
The aforementioned recommendations might not be a magic potion for overall crisis but, I’m confident that if the government adopts these recommendations, the country would break free from the cycle of this persistent and meaningless violence.
The author is a visiting lecturer at Upper Nile University, and he can be reached at 0955450033 or at firstname.lastname@example.org