South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar is in Ethiopia to conduct high level talks with current President Salva Kiir in order to find a resolution to the nation’s ongoing civil war.
Sudan was once one of the largest countries in Africa. It is also a region that is geographically diverse and is rich in resources such as petroleum, iron ore, copper, zinc, silver, gold, hydropower and more. But through the decades the region is plagued by problems. Since becoming politically independent in 1956, proxy wars took place between Sudan, Chad and Libya which caused instability. In the 1980's, despite there was widespread famine. The first civil war ended in 1972 but the second war began in 1983. During this period, reportedly four million were displaced and two million died. Thus, the region came to be increasingly militarized. However, the worst was still yet to come.
The conflicts along with famines resulted in Darfur becoming one of the most marginalized and underdeveloped regions in Sudan. On February 2003, the militant groups, Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) began fighting the Sudanese government. They claimed that the government had actively oppressed the non-Arab population in Darfur. As a response, the government carried out a horrific ethnic cleansing campaign against the non-Arab in Darfur. There was genocide in the region and hundreds of thousands of civilians died as a result. In 2006, the UN approved a resolution to send new peacekeeping forces of 17,300 forces.
South Sudan is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. The country gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, making it the newest country with widespread recognition. Its capital and largest city is Juba. South Sudan has suffered ethnic violence and has been in a civil war since 2013. In December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, as the president accused Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d'état. The two have been at the opposite ends of two warring factions ever since. The resulting conflict has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and millions have been displaced.
In what could prove a turning point for the embattled nation, it has been confirmed that South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar is in Ethiopia to conduct high level talks with current President Salva Kiir. According to officials, the two men are meeting to negotiate an end to the bloody civil war that has raged in the region for the past five years.
“Yes, I can confirm to you that our chairman has arrived in Addis Ababa airport this morning,” rebel spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel said, referring to Machar, who had been held under house arrest in South Africa since late 2016 after fleeing South Sudan.
This will be the first time the warring leaders will be coming face to face in two years. Ateny Wek Ateny, South Sudan's government spokesman, called Abiy's invitation “significant,” telling The Associated Press news agency: "anything that brings peace in South Sudan is wanted."
It should be noted that there have been multiple attempts in the past to negotiate for peace in the region. However, multiple peace treaties have not rendered fruitful results thus far. In 2016, Machar was briefly made the Vice President of the country but peace was short lived. Violent fighting ensued and he fled South Sudan in 2016. Machar has been held under house arrest in South Africa since late 2016.
The two leaders may have agreed for negotiations in part due to the actions of the United Nations. In June 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution threatening an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions against six individuals.
Our assessment is that South Sudan is one of the most embattled regions not only in Africa but also the world. According to certain estimates, the state is even more fragile and dangerous for its citizens than nations like Somalia. It is imperative for its leaders to employ diplomacy to reach a peaceful solution. However, given the lack of success of previous peace agreements, there is reason to be cautious of the outcome.