South Sudan: The Long Way to Peace

Elena Balatti, CMS

The peace agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed in 2018 in its final version, should be fully implemented by the end of next year when the general elections are scheduled. If all goes as planned, in December 2024, the people of South Sudan will elect a new leadership that will be the first legislative and governing body chosen by the citizens of the new country, created by the 2011 referendum that resulted in the independence from Sudan.

On the one hand, the people of South Sudan have full right to long for peace, a status that they have never enjoyed for two centuries. Since the military expedition of the Egyptian leader Muhammad Ali in 1821, the Sudan has been troubled by recurring cycles of violence, including civil wars and armed revolts. The independence of South Sudan from Sudan was immediately followed by the civil war that erupted in 2013 and will hopefully be left behind through the multiparty political elections next year. On the other hand, the ethnically diverse peoples of this young nation find in front of them the inescapable task of harmonizing their society made up of 64 tribes. Inclusivity in governance sharing of power and resources has proven difficult, and sometimes there was insufficient goodwill to walk it, as the civil war 2013-18 clearly showed.

The lack of peace and stability seriously hampered the progress of South Sudan towards the ‘sustainable development’ set as a desirable objective for all nations in the list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. The clock is ticking fast towards the end of the third decade of our century, and if peace and stability do not prevail in South Sudan, the risk is that the Country will continue lagging behind in the international scenario. This setback would starkly contradict the potentialities of South Sudan, which is extremely rich in natural resources, including the vast and unique ecosystem of the Nile basin, the extensive agricultural land, and the minerals, just to mention a few.

Within the above context, since 2017, the Ecumenical Council of the Churches, of which the Catholic Church is a member, has been proactive and has elaborated its ‘Action Plan for Peace’. It is an articulated program to involve all Church structures on the national territory to work for healing and reconciliation, to be a neutral platform for groups in conflict among themselves, and to advocate for peace locally and internationally. A number of religious men and women serving in parishes, schools, hospitals, and other avenues are actively involved in promoting peace. Even if, in some cases, they do not explicitly link their work to the SDGs, when it comes to peace, inclusivity, search for justice, and development, they are actually contributing to their achievement.

Elena Balatti, CMS