The Never-Ending Conflict in South Sudan

Senator Mobina Jaffer
February 21, 2014

The rival factions in South Sudan signed a ceasefire in January, yet in spite of this terrible instances of violence have continued to plague the young nation. The current state of affairs is utterly soul destroying. The South Sudanese, who have suffered so much pain in the past several decades and who need all of their meagre resources dedicated to development, appear to be no closer to real peace now than they were before the ceasefire agreement was signed.  In the early 2000's as Canada's Envoy to the Sudan Peace Process I and many others worked to end the war between the Sudanese Government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). There was hope, optimism, and, finally, a peace agreement.  Sadly these have not brought enduring peace to South Sudan.

From my experience in the earlier Sudanese peace process, I know that successful implementation of the ceasefire agreement is critically important.  The humanitarian costs of this conflict are far too high.  A ceasefire will not, however, be sufficient to bring peace to South Sudan.  The tug of war between the parties is but a symptom of larger problems in South Sudan; it also threatens to deepen and exacerbate differences within the country.  To be effective, representation at the table must be broadened to include other groups, especially those who have not taken up arms against or in support of the Government.  I understand from firsthand experience that this will not be easy in a country of such diversity.  Given the massive effort and untold resources which Canada and the rest of the international community have invested trying to bring an end to conflict in this part of the world, we should not be disengaged now.

In addition to convening talks with a range of players, work must be done at other levels - among civil society, at community levels - in order to provide a firm footing upon which real, durable peace can be established.  At all levels, women and their perspectives and interests must be fairly and effectively represented.  Women have been key players in building peace in the Sudan and South Sudan, and excluding them from the current peace process would be a grave error.

The international community possesses an unprecedented array of levers which may be employed to help convince the Government of South Sudan and its adversaries to agree to more substantial talks with broader, more representative participation.  These levers must be used now in the cause of finally building a sustainable peace.  This will take the will to act, it will take resources, and it will take hard work.  We all cannot stop now as every minute we dither an innocent child is maimed or killed.  We cannot wash our hands from this conflict.  The time to act is now.


PN Member Senator Mobina Jaffer represents the province of British Columbia in the Senate of Canada, where she chairs the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.


Photo by Joaoleitao TRAVEL.

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