South Sudan Faces Uphill Struggle for a Longer-Term Peace

The temporary truce signed on Thursday by South Sudanese politicians may have halted hostilities that, according to United Nations and humanitarian estimates, have resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 people – and displaced half a million more –since fighting began in December, but a sustainable peace remains far off, diplomats and experts say. “The country can fall apart; it’s sort of half unglued now. Even if there’s a ceasefire, who knows if that’s going to stick as it doesn’t resolve any the underlining problems,” said Tom McDonald, who worked on Sudan issues as U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe during the Clinton presidency. “A lot is at stake because we have invested time and diplomatic capital and lots of money there to stand up this country.” Two and a half years ago, the world celebrated the birth of the new nation in the hope that dividing Sudan would end the violence in the war-torn country. The U.S. poured billions of dollars into helping build South Sudan’s government and ministries. So how, in such a short amount of time and with so much support from the international community, could things fall apart? Some, like Eric Reeves, a professor of English at Smith College, and an expert on Sudan and South Sudan, say the U.S. and the West expected too much too quickly from the South Sudanese and that the UN should have overseen a period of transition while a constitution was written. John Prendergast of the Enough Project, a nonprofit anti-genocide organization that works in South Sudan, lays the blame more squarely on the Obama Administration. “There was a gulf from the last special envoy last spring until the new special envoy [was appointed] in the fall,” Prendergast says. “During that period, already existing problems were incubating and exploding to the surface. The U.S. didn’t have that envoy and team to work that issue as diligently as needed.” The last U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Princeton Lyman, stepped down on March 22, 2013, and his replacement, Donald Booth, wasn’t named until August 28. During that five-month lag, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir made what his opponents call an authoritarian….

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