South Sudan: ″Only so much the international community can do″ | Africa | DW | 03.01.2014
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South Sudan: "Only so much the international community can do"

South Sudan's warring parties have begun indirect talks at a hotel in Addis Ababa to end nearly three weeks of raging conflict which has left thousands feared dead and taken the nation to the brink of civil war.

Ethiopia's foreign ministry said the regional East African bloc IGAD that is helping to broker a deal "was committed to support in any way possible."

Deutsche Welle has been talking to Jakkie Cilliers, director of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, about the conflict and the attempts to resolve it.

DW: What could be Ethiopia's role in negotiations between the two sides?

Jakkie Cilliers: Well, Ethiopia is both the chair of the African Union as well as of IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in the Horn of Africa, and has been playing a leading role in that capacity to bring the sides together. Of course, Addis Ababa is also the host to the African Union. At the moment, it seems that the African Union has requested that IGAD lead on the negotiations, which is in line with the principle of subsidiarity within the African Union. So Ethiopia's role will be to provide a neutral venue where the sides can speak.

How could this instability in South Sudan affect neighboring countries?

I think developments in South Sudan are extremely concerning. We must recognize that this is a country which did not exist two years ago. It is what we refer to as a country with a long-term fragility, in other words, it will remain violent-prone for decades to come and we will continue to see advances and setbacks in the years that lie ahead. I think we just have to accept that with the history of violence and instability that we have seen in South Sudan these type of regressions happen very easily. What we should be looking towards is real leadership from President Salva Kiir as well as from Riek Machar. At the end of the day, only those two factions can bring stability to South Sudan. But the reality is that various factions within South Sudan have been at war with one another for decades. The SPLM government has never had real, effective control and many of the armed factions, such as that of Riek Machar and others, have shifted allegiances from one side to the other over many, many years so there needs to be real leadership and a way forward that is presented by all sides in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Of course the situation becomes more tense as the competition for power escalates and often it turns violent but it is only leadership that is going to provide a way of this - leadership by the Sudanese themselves.

IGAD has tried to bring the two sides to the negotiating table. What could be the role of the international community in bringing peace to South Sudan?

I think the international community has re-emphasized the position of the African Union and indeed of Africa generally, which says that firstly it will not recognize generally any unconstitutional change of government. In other words, it is warning Riek Machar that his threat of violence and violent overthrow of the government in South Sudan will not receive the support of the international community and there have been threats of sanctions. You would know that President Museveni of Uganda has even threatened to intervene militarily in the region. So the international community is concerned. The Americans have deployed a mediator and there is, I think, a groundswell of support for a mediated solution. The UN Security Council has already reacted. There is only so much the international community can do to try and cajole the belligerents towards an agreement and at the moment it looks as if fighting has almost escalated in the run-up to the negotiations, particularly around Bor. Riek Machar's forces have apparently succeeded in recapturing Bor ahead of the negotiations. But this is an old tradition in Sudan – fighting always escalates ahead of talks as the opposing sides try and position themselves ahead of the talks. Once the talks start that situation will be in a sense frozen.and allow for effective negotiations to take place.

Interviewer: Hirut Melesse

Jakkie Cilliers is director of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies

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