A spike in communal violence in South Sudan shows that the recent peace agreement did not explore the depth of the origin of conflict in that country, an expert says.
Alan Boswell, a senior analyst of the conflict in Africa’s youngest nation at the International Crisis Group told the Washington Post that while the piece deal concentrated on a permanent ceasefire between forces loyal to President Kiir and his rival Riek Machar and formation of a unity government between both men, different aspects of the South Sudan society which have fueled the six-year civil war were left out.
“The deal could have been the start of South Sudan piecing itself together, but I think the amount of violence that still exists, and that ongoing fighting with groups that didn’t sign it shows how far we have to go,” Boswell is quoted as saying by Wahington Post in an article.
“Even if the peace deal holds between Kiir and Machar, you still have violence that can kill hundreds and displace thousands. It exposes the myopia of the peace deal,” he added
Last week, ethnic militias attacked a community in Jonglei killing over 300 people, abducting women, and children, stealing cattle and destroying homesteads, according to security and aid agencies working in the area.
Inter-communal conflict has surged in South Sudan attributed to grazing land and water. About 800 people are reported dead since late last year. The United Nations mission in the country was for example forced to send troops to quell violence in the Bahr el Ghazal region after fighting left 79 people dead late last year.
The violence, however, comes on the heels of the formation of a new government in South Sudan, one intended to bring an end to a civil war that began in 2013 and has cost more than 400,000 lives.
In February 2020, Kiir and Machar, declared “a new dawn” and that “peace has come to stay,” when they formed a unity government. However, that deal left out many militia groups who are roaming the country freely.
As part of the peace deal, Machar’s rebel army, made up mostly of the Nuer ethnic group, is being integrated into the national army, mostly made up of Dinkas.
However, ethnic militias tied to smaller groups such as the Murle who have been wrecking havoc have been excluded from national power long before the peace deal.
The Murle and a sub-tribe of the Nuer have fought over disputed land in Jonglei for decades, each accusing the other of cattle raiding, mass abductions of women and children, and attempts at ethnic cleansing.
A statement released by leaders from the Lou Nuer community last week called for peace but ended with a warning: “Should the Murle not be prepared to live in peace with their neighbors, particularly the aggrieved Lou community, then Lou youth will have no other option but to face the menace of the Murle in the most appropriate way.”
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the United Nations said their staff, including one medical worker and two other aid workers were killed respectively.
U.N. official in the country said a major driver of the violence is that new governors have not been appointed despite the formation of a new government, creating regional power struggles.