Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 6 August 2018

South Sudan: Confidence building not only required but essential


By Adeeb Yousif

This article is intended to address the topic of mistrust, to enable scholars, practitioners, peace-builders, policy-makers and actors operating in South Sudan to better understand the dilemma, and find the best methods, needs, to deal with mistrust. Moreover, the article aims to draw the attention of the mediation and facilitation teams such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Troika, the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) need to play a positive role in trying to build trust and confidence among South Sudanese. This might help South Sudan avoid a continued future of chaos, anarchy and lawlessness. It is the way to stop the ongoing disastrous conflicts and mitigate latent under-the-surface future conflicts. And indeed it is the possible avenue to stop the bloodshed and stop the miseries of innocent civilians in South Sudan.

The mistrust and stereotyping about other ethnic group is an ever green-subject has usually being distributed and disseminated before or during and after conflict. When conflict turns to violence, it goes far beyond human causalities, it destroys interpersonal trust, and erodes confidence among and between groups. In their article Trusting the Enemy: Confidence in the state among ex-combatants, Enzo Nussio and Ben Oppenheim provide insights on the fundamental need for trust between former ‘enemies’, they argue that: “Trust is critical for economic development and prosperity, as well as the successful management of political conflict”. The ground reality is more complex and goes far beyond former combatants. The challenges in war-torn societies are often racked with generalized distrust, both among some ethnic groups and between some citizens and the state; even long after the conflict ends.

The fact that lack of trust has never received some attention during the South Sudan peace talks and the resultant agreement was based on it, no clear mechanism on how to overcome this phenomenon was developed despite its importance to these issues. This article suggests how to build and increase trust, confidence, and peacebuilding in South Sudan. The project will be targeting parties to the South Sudanese conflict, the opposition alliance, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), religious actors, high school teachers, local and community leaders, and women and youth leaders. This initiative is aimed at building the capacity of conflict-affected communities to participate in problem-solving rather than leaving them out of remote conflict resolution formalities. Moreover, the initiative is aimed at creating harmonious co-existence, sustainable peace and reconciliation.

There is no greater challenge facing South Sudan today than dealing with the scourge of negative ethnicity and tribalism. I have always wondered how such issues develop and are allowed to escalate, especially where negative tribalism is concerned. How does mutual tolerance, respect and even love transform into deep hatred? How can elites use their power and capacity to change negative ethnicity into a positive one? Every day, it seems that South Sudan is marred deeper into conflicts and tensions; socially and politically things are getting worse. One of the largest conflicts I have witnessed and lived within its environment is an ethnic dispute in South Sudan. A day does not go by where there is not a new development to this conflict. On Wednesday, June 27th 2018, the warring parties in South Sudan signed a permanent ceasefire agreement following the peace talks held in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

Later on Saturday, July 8th 2018 Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni hosted a continuation of the same peace talks at State House, Entebbe in Uganda. The leaders of the parties to the conflict in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his former deputy, Dr Riek Machar, have agreed to form a unity government and signed a framework of power-sharing. On Sunday, August 5 2018, a final power-sharing agreement was signed the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) in neighbouring Sudan. The agreement has been characterized by many including South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) as having no integrity, no accountability, no transparency, no professionalism, no inclusivity and no objectivity, the negotiations had come to an agreement. But, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the Peace Arrangement in its current situation and under the current circumstance, to bring lasting peace to South Sudan, without substantial additional help and effort from the international community to build trust and confidence between South Sudanese political parties and bring the SSOA on board.

Moreover, in order to achieve lasting peace, the conflict-affected civilian population needs to be involved and included at all levels of the peace process and the role of the military must be reduced. In a protracted conflict such as that in South Sudan in which there is little to no trust or confidence among the conflicting parties, the civilian role takes on the utmost importance and is essential to reaching a lasting peace. When the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In-Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) engage in peace talks, or when two political opposition groups enter into a negotiation, it is vital to remember that a final agreement marks only the beginning of the peace process. While it is a “final” agreement accompanied by formal handshakes that provides a temporary reduction in violence, it does not, however, in and of itself guarantee peace. Rather, it is the masses of ordinary people and how they engage with one another on a daily basis that determines either the long-term successful implementation of a peace agreement or its demise. This project will be targeted at local communities and key stakeholders in the region.

Over the years there have been many peace agreements that have been signed in South Sudan. Regrettably, not one of these agreements has brought peace, security, stability or development to the newest country on earth. Rather, these unfulfilled agreements have served to increase the level of insecurity in South Sudan and have created numerous fragmentations. As a result, the social fabric of ethnic groups in the conflicted areas is being destroyed. The concerns of displaced populations, including refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and demobilized soldiers must be addressed if the goal of lasting peace is to be achieved. Refugees, for example, may know no home outside of the camp. With the signing of a peace agreement, they must find new homes and learn new skills. Displaced populations and the broader civilian population alike expect peace to bring increased prosperity and security, but with a poor economy, a broken justice system, and lingering hatreds, factions often come to see the peace process as a failure and resume fighting as it is believed to be their only option for survival.

The risk of Ethno-political agreement: In an ethnopolitical conflict such as South Sudan, power sharing is not the only solution because Ethno-power sharing is like a wound plaster, it won’t heal a broken bone. An employing individual of an ethnic group or signing an agreement with another group can not a solve ethnic conflict. The Government of Sudan has long experienced in singing ethno-political peace agreements, particularly in Darfur. The GoS has been signing peace agreements with groups from various ethnic groups that have no presence or legitimacy in Sudan. This allows that actors to continue to ignore the actual needs of the people and what should be involved in peace discussions, including, political reform, constitutional amendment, economic changes, and the development of infrastructure.

In a bloody ethnic conflict such as South Sudan, conflicting parties need to learn from their present and past mistakes. Fragmented group need to develop ideas of living “unity of purpose ” and pursuing the ideal for resolving political violence and managing conflict. Sharing divisiveness, when people are ready to look at their own personal journey of non-violence and peaceful co-existence. Dealing with their past through truth and reconciliation. When people chose to publicly acknowledge what happens rather than dealing and generating with private memory. Then the fragmented group can apply what is known as liberal peace is emphasizes, democracy, human rights, free market economy and individual political liberty. Whatever the causes, these internal dynamics of opposition movements have clear policy implications.

The Need for PEACE in South Sudan: The children of South Sudan only know their homeland as a place of conflict. For some, the conflict means that they have had to leave their home. All of South Sudan’s children are suffering the consequences of a war into which they were born, but are ill-equipped to understand. These children have also been born without the burden of hatred and seeing those that are different from them as the “other”. As a result, they live their lives with love, curiosity, and courage. It is critical that the environment in which they live encourages this climate of tolerance and hope and that it is also shared by their parents and communities. Peace education is the best way in which to foster and nurture this type of environment. Education is vital to maintaining a livelihood with dignity. It also serves as the main gateway to development, security, prosperity, understanding, acceptance, respect, and peaceful coexistence. This trust building project is aimed at changing the paradigm in order to promote a culture of peace through the building of personal relationships. People-to-people peace processes need to take place from the bottom up. It suggests that the public must be involved, included, and informed. Moreover, the project would address the fact that peace cannot be achieved alone, in isolation, but rather through cooperation among former opponents, which requires a great deal of assistance.

Dr. Adeeb Yousif is conflict analysis and resolution scholar and practitioner a human rights activist. he can be reached at: aabdela2@gmu.edu

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