Forum on "Peace in South Sudan: Utopia or a worthwhile dream?
The Peace Programme, a joint initiative by the Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) and CCFD-Terre Solidaire, has convened a one-day reflection workshop that has brought together various actors to discuss peace work in South Sudan. Through the discussions taking place, it is intended that interested stakeholders will have an enhanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities of peace making in South Sudan. It is also further hoped that there will be learning and cross-fertilization of the various peace building approaches currently in use and perhaps potential for collaborative and innovative ones to emerge.
As the newest republic in the world and the 54th African Union state, South Sudan is faced with several complex and competing challenges. Ravaged by years of war, poor infrastructures, deep internal divisions, border and tribal problems and worrying development indicators, the new nation is yet to meet the aspirations of South Sudanese for independence.
However, there is plenty of goodwill from its neighbours and the international community at large to enable the country’s political elites to fulfill the aspirations for independence. As highlighted in an ACORD - CCFD 2013 research publication titled “Societies ‘Caught in The Conflict Trap: Regional Dynamics of Conflict in Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan,” a number of unresolved issues have persisted and contributed to the tensions and open conflict that South Sudan has experienced over the past year.
Key among these issues are religious, ethnic and cultural differences; poor Governance; cattle rustling; proliferation of small arms; border problems; limited livelihood alternatives for young people and rural populations; limited basic education or literacy; and a growing economic gap between those in and around power and the rest of the population.
The reality of these factors reinforces the judgement that peace building strategies need to be long-term: the strategies must be based on a vision of how a peaceful South Sudan might be organised and built over a generation and the strategies must be informed by a realistic assessment of the obstacles and disincentives to building a positive, sustainable peace in the short to medium term.
Civil society organizations, academia and other stakeholders working for peace in South Sudan increasingly face the reality that attaining peace in South Sudan is a formidable challenge and will likely become a generational challenge as well, especially in light of the turbulent history of the people and country and the entrenched interests and identities of many key actors and institutions. On the positive side, several institutions, albeit imperfect and shaped by the history of war and violence do present opportunities for peace building in South Sudan.