Rounds of peace talks led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in East Africa have hit a stonewall, threatening a resolution to the conflict in South Sudan.
The situation in South Sudan, again, appears to be tittering on the edge of newfound violence. Ever since the power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar placed the country into civil war last December, over 1.9 million people have been left displaced and the escalating threat of famine further threatens those caught up in the conflict.
Mediators want Kiir and Machar to sign a peace agreement that will help ensure that a transitional government is set up to steer the country forward. The talks have, however, shrunk down to a series of squabbles between the parties involved, specifically over the terms and details of the power-sharing deal.
Neither side is willing to accept compromises, or the deal itself due to a lack of clarity regarding how much power either party would receive if the deal is signed. The intergovernmental authority has continuously threatened to impose sanctions if the talks continued to stonewall. Yet with South Sudan’s economy and infrastructure spearheading into decline, this action could escalate the conflict.
A nation that was born from decades of internal conflicts, the latest figures provided by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) highlight the rising humanitarian crisis that has been caused in the wake of the conflict.
The economy has become a major causality of the war, with millions of civilians facing the growing dangers of hunger and famine, as well as renewed violence. After independence 98 per cent of the government’s revenues came from oil reserves, sourced from the Upper Nile states that produced over 350,000 barrels of oil per day. As a result of the conflict the figure for production of oil stands at a much lower 160,000 barrels of oil per day, with the revenues going towards the government’s war effort.
Economically the country is facing financial disaster, as the government continues to neglect the economy and place focus on consolidating power against the rebels. Cases of poverty in the country continue to rise, with the numbers of displaced civilians continuing to increase as the violence spreads to wider communities.
South Sudan has reached a critical point. The rainy season is almost at an end, meaning that continued violence between warring factions is likely to increase over the coming months.
A failure to sign the peace deal will likely plunge the country into renewed conflict, enhance ethnic divisions and could allow famine to spread to uncontrollable levels. A power-sharing deal however, as observers highlight, could also entice violence.
South Sudan remains a divided nation and could become further fractured if the deal fails to bring the power struggle to an end.