Haven’t you had your chance?

In June, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a trade bloc in the Horn of Africa/Upper Nile/Great Lakes region that includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda, unveiled a plan for a sustainable long-term settlement to the almost two year-long civil war in South Sudan. It called for power-sharing between the country’s two largest political parties, the SPLM of President Salva Kiir and opposition forces supporting (former?) Vice President Riek Machar. Last month, IGAD declared that it had produced a compromise peace agreement that would be signed and go into effect by August 17. Note that Kiir and Machar signed an agreement months ago in which they promised to form a unity government by July, a deadline they obviously missed after the last round of serious peace talks between the two sides collapsed in late February.

Kiir’s government took a look at IGAD’s proposal and has apparently deemed it a non-starter, according to Al Jazeera. In lieu of the IGAD plan, Kiir’s spokesperson promises that Kiir himself will be unveiling his own peace plan, to which any objective person would have to say “if it was that simple, then why the fuck didn’t you do that two years, 50,000 bodies, 2 million refugees, and countless atrocities ago?”

South Sudan has never really been able to start developing as a nation since being created in 2011. In the long run it will only be able to sustain itself as a nation if it moves beyond people like Kiir and Machar and starts to build stable political and economic institutions, but that will take decades and won’t do much to stop the killing and war crimes in the immediate future. A peace brokered by IGAD, which stage-managed South Sudan’s independence and then watched as the country utterly collapsed, probably isn’t the solution either, but it’s likely to be better than whatever Kiir proposes.

This war started when Kiir fired Machar as his VP, ostensibly over a foiled coup attempt but more likely in an effort to consolidate his own power, and took on a gloss of ethnic strife (Machar is Nuer, Kiir is Dinka, two tribes that have a history of conflict between them) as the two leaders appealed to their respective bases. It seems highly unlikely that any sustainable solution to the violence could leave either of these two warlords with any role in South Sudan’s government.

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