South Sudan Signs Peace Deal to End Civil War
Rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar (left) and President Salva Kiir (right) in the capital Juba, South Sudan after the meeting of the first transitional coalition government. Credit: AP Photo/Jason Patinkin.
On Wednesday, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar signed a peace deal in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, formally ending a five-year civil war that has killed thousands since December 2013.
The new agreement reinstates Machar as Vice President, a role he previously held until political clashes with President Kiir turned into armed confrontation. The deal establishes a power-sharing transitional government between Kiir and Machar’s SPLM-IO group, among other rebel factions, with general elections being held after three years. The deal also sets a timeline to reintegrate the two rival armies under command of the president.
A 2015 peace deal, which stipulated a similar power-sharing agreement, fell apart in 2016 after clashes between government forces and rebels, forcing Machar to flee the country. A deal proposed this past August also led to further clashes after Machar rejected some proposals and refused to sign.
Despite assurances from the Juba government and Machar to honor the new agreement, critics remain skeptical that it will hold, citing the conflicts that followed past peace deals. The United States, Britain, and Norway, the Troika that helped South Sudan secede from Sudan in 2011, remain optimistic but have called into question the commitment of both sides to the agreement.
Fighting broke out on Friday in Central Equatoria state, with each side blaming the other for instigating the attacks. As accusations flew that neither side was truly serious about maintaining peace, the government called such claims ‘propaganda,’ stating that the attacks were led by opposition forces looking to reclaim territory.
This newest peace agreement was brokered in Khartoum and mediated by Sudanese officials, who are concerned with maintaining stability in the region and avoiding a new wave of refugees fleeing the conflict.
Sudan also seeks to encourage economic growth in the region’s oil production. The secession of South Sudan also meant a loss of most of Sudan’s oil reserves, upending the economy. When civil war broke out in 2013, South Sudan ceased oil production and its oil infrastructure has been heavily damaged by the conflict.
According to the United Nations, South Sudan’s civil war has killed at least 50,000 people and displaced up to four million.