/ 2 March 2016

Fighting persists in South Sudan despite peace treaty

A peace agreement was signed between factions of the ruling party in August 2015.
A peace agreement was signed between factions of the ruling party in August 2015.

South Sudan’s people are still being killed and injured, even though more than six months have passed since a peace agreement was signed between factions of the ruling party.

This week Juerg Eglin, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s head of delegation in South Sudan, said it would take time for the August 2015 peace agreement to change things on the ground, but a positive spin-off was the country would soon have a transitional government.

“Fighting has subsided in more contested areas in the past few months due to the peace agreement, but … other areas of hot spots [have flared] up, causing injuries and seeing people getting killed,” Eglin told journalists at a briefing in Pretoria.

“Unfortunately this won’t just disappear. Displacement is a mid- to long-term issue,” he said, adding that “the humanitarian situation will be difficult for months or years to come”.

War broke out in December 2013 after Vice-President Riek Machar rebelled against President Salva Kiir. The conflict has displaced more than two million people and more than 50 000 people have reportedly been killed.

In it for the long haul
The Red Cross, other than providing emergency aid during times of war, would also look at training nurses and establishing hospitals and providing other services, Eglin said, “to see that our aid fits into the broader picture”.

For instance, the Red Cross would offer support with the functioning, management, capacity and budgets of the new hospitals being built, he said.

The organisation has already vaccinated about a million head of cattle and helped with the feed for livestock. “People depend on these as their main source of income and livelihood,” he said.

Eglin said the Red Cross, which has 200 international and 800 local staff members in South Sudan, was generally given a warm welcome because it had been working in the country for many years.

But there was disquiet among nongovernmental organisations about a Bill the government was passing to regulate the aid industry. Despite the fact that government had a right to know what each organisation was doing in the country, “we feel it comes with some constraints and restrictions, and has a negative undertone”, he said.

Unity deferred
There has also been a delay in establishing a government of national unity, because Machar, the newly reappointed first vice-president and former rebel leader, has refused to return to the capital, Juba.

Machar said the city first had to be demilitarised and his troops should be allowed to establish themselves there for his protection. The Voice of America reported on Tuesday that there had been delays in transporting and settling in the troops.

Eglin added that in addition to the political issues there were physical difficulties in gaining access to some areas, because there is only 60km of tarred road in the country and movement is further complicated when it rains.

South Sudan is the Red Cross’s second-largest aid operation after Syria, with a budget of $130?million.

Founded in 2011 after becoming independent from the north, South Sudan is one of the world’s youngest countries.