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South Sudan at risk of full-blown civil war, group warns

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A man waves South Sudanese national flags during peace celebrations in the capital Juba, South Sudan Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018 (AP Photo)

February 10, 2021 (BRUSSELS) - South Sudan risks facing another full-blown civil war unless the country’s leaders develop a system whereby power can be shared more equitably at the centre, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a report on Wednesday.

The report titled "Toward a Viable Future for South Sudan” comes almost a year after a unity government was formed in the country.

According to the report, an election likely to come in 2022 threatens to inflame tensions between signatories to the September 2018 peace agreement.

“Incentives for post-election violence will be acute. South Sudan’s highly centralised power structure and political economy raise the election’s stakes since there are limited consolation prizes especially if [Salva] Kiir continues to flout the constitution by refusing to devolve oil revenues and removing powerful governors by decree,” it noted.

The 38-page report urged South Sudanese elite, religious leaders and civil society to rethink the country’s system of governance and create a political system that would work for one of Africa’s most diverse nations with more than 60 different ethnic groups.

“While prospects of that, for now, appear slim, the country’s reform-minded elites, civil society and external partners should still work toward fairer power-sharing at the centre and greater devolution,” it observed.

South Sudan, which broke away from Sudan in 2011, depends on oil revenue for 98% of its budget, yet a civil war that erupted in December 2013 saw a significant decline in its oil production.

Meanwhile, the report recommends setting aside prominent positions in the national government for electoral runners-up as a way of guaranteeing them positions of influence to prevent them from taking up arms.

It further urges regional leaders to broker pre-election dialogue, to extract assurances from losing parties in order to lower the stakes as well as guaranteeing in advance another broad-based government of national unity.

(ST)

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