South Sudan Peace Talks and Hopeful Ceasefire
On December 15 fighting broke out across South Sudan, the world’s newest country that has only been independent of Sudan since 2011. It is worried that the clashes will lead to an all out civil war, but though the fighting isn’t over yet, peace talks are underway in Ethiopia, and Chia is urging for an immediate ceasefire.
The fighting began as a clash between those loyal to President Salva Kiir, and those to Riek Macher, the former vice president who was sacked in July last year. This has escalated into a war between government troops and a loose alliance of insurgents, including mutinous army commanders.
BP, the international oil and gas company, estimated that South Sudan, which is about the same size as France, holds Africa’s third largest oil reserves south of the Saharan desert. Since the fighting started in December, oil production is down by about 20% and is attracting more global attention than most African nations torn by conflict.
China is South Sudan’s largest investor in the oil industry and Africa’s single biggest trading partner. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi explained that although China tries to remain neutral in African politics, it would help to restore stability to South Sudan in any way possible. Because of China’s close ties with South Sudan, it called for an immediate ceasefire on Monday 6 January, and has urged international power to back the mediation efforts in Ethiopia which began on Tuesday 7 January.
Wang declared that China’s position on the peace talks “is very clear”, when talking in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital where the peace talks are being held. “First, we call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and violence,” he said.
The rebel delegation indicated that the chances of an immediate truce were unlikely because the government has detained some political prisoners and rejected calls to release them. Rebel spokesman Yohanis Musa Pauk said that the detainees need to be released “so that they come and participate”.
Yohanis explained that, in the eyes of the insurgents, negotiations cannot take place when people are being detained from either side and that the prisoners need to be released in a show of good faith. “We are just waiting for the release of our detainees,” he said. “When they release them very soon, we will sign the cessation of hostilities agreement.”
Of the 11 people original detained, eight have been released, but the authorities consider three to be key figures in the disagreements: former Cabinet Affairs Minister Deng Alor, former Finance Minister Kosti Manibe, and Pagan Amum, the former General Secretary and chief oil negotiator.
The peace talks hinge on whether or not the government decides to release these three political prisoners. Although there is no end in sight at the moment, the first step for obtaining peace is getting all parties together and talking things through, and with many international politicians across the globe calling for quits, hopefully it shouldn’t be too long before something gives and peace reigns over South Sudan.