The Dutch peacebuilding organisation PAX is extremely concerned about the resumption of hostilities in South Sudan.
Gun battles in the capital Juba are continuing despite a call from the United Nations for an immediate cease fire. Skirmishes are taking place elsewhere in the country as well. The latest round of fighting has already claimed at least 300 lives, including many civilians.
The exact cause of this latest round of fighting is unclear. However, tension between the two main factions has been building due to the sluggish implementation of the August 2015 peace accord, as well as the re-appointment of Riek Machar as vice president. To make matters worse, it appears that infighting among groups on each side is on the increase, as both sides further disintegrate into various militias and factions under autonomous generals fighting for power. For a detailed description of this trend, see the PAX report from January 2016, ‘Scenarios for South Sudan in 2020’.
Trust is fragile
Kathelijne Schenkel, PAX programme director for South Sudan, says “What we are seeing is that for quite some time the trust between the two parties has been fragile, the peace accord was barely being implemented and patience with the transitional government was running out. Plus, there are too many armed groups which think they have more to gain by continuing the civil war. If the fragmentation of the conflicting parties into smaller armed factions and splinter groups continues in the manner we described in our report, it will be disastrous for the future of South Sudan.”
Major obstacles to implementing the peace accord include disarmament, demobilizing and reintegration of soldiers on both sides, the flood of weapons available to all armed factions, unsolved conflicts and the unilateral expansion of the number of governorates from 10 to 28.
PAX has closed its office in Juba due to the security situation. PAX conducts a number of programmes and studies in South Sudan.
See Pax Christi International statement condemning the violence
See the joint public letter from 20 South Sudanese organizations to the UN Security Council
Protection of Civilians, Africa