South Sudan is currently in the midst of an enormous humanitarian crisis. Political unrest, economic instability, and a drought are to blame for the displacement of approximately 3.7 million people, uncontrollable violence and food shortages. All of these aforementioned tragedies have stemmed from South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in July 2011 which spurred a division of the ruling political party and the consequential fight for power.
What South Sudan needs now more than anything is stability and peace, which can only be achieved through acknowledgment of the external conflicts surrounding the country, and then unpacking its internal conflict. Attempted SolutionsThroughout the war, many peace agreements have been signed-the most recent being in August 2015-but they have all been violated a number of times. The Obama administration unsuccessfully attempted to devise an operative plan to resolve the internal civil war and help build South Sudan’s political future after aiding in their independence. The U.S. tried to encourage the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a regional body in East Africa, to persuade the two major opposing parties—the government led by President Salva Kiir and the rivals led by former deputy Riek Machar—to sign a peace agreement that would create a power-sharing government. However, the strategy failed to include any other political parties which provoked many armed rebellions throughout the country. Conversely, the Trump administration has yet to issue a policy statement detailing any potential course of action to aid South Sudan.
This is a politically driven crisis that needs a political solution. This solution should promote the process of establishing a temporary government readily able to end the war, punish the rampant criminal groups, bring back the displaced, and prepare the country for an election. Proposed Solution- The Regional Protection Force On November 11, 2016, the World Peace Foundation consulted with policymakers and experts on the proposed deployment of a ‘Regional Protection Force’ (RPF) for South Sudan. In order for the RPF to be effective, it must address two important issues. Firstly, the surrounding states political interest in South Sudan’s internal politics should be acknowledged and accommodated for. Settling these conflicts of interests among states- most importantly betwixt Uganda and Sudan, is a prime concern because, without a solution, South Sudan will never achieve internal political agreement. Secondly, there needs to be adequate stability in order for the people of South Sudan to safely convene a political gathering to discuss the future of the young country.
This is not to be confused with Juba’s pseudo-stability. In even the most modest reparative agenda, stability must be present before anything is to be productive. These conditions a crucial to the success of the RPF because without them it could end up contributing to the political upheaval of South Sudan. There are many risks of negative repercussions that can follow a premature deployment, including but not limited to becoming a party to a proxy conflict among surrounding states and/or fostering a false sense of safety among the people which would lead to disillusionment, frustration, and the possible doubt of its legitimacy.
The phased deployment of the United Nations “regional protection force” in South Sudan actually already began on August 8, 2017. This immediately freed many of the peacekeepers that were there to transfer their efforts to more conflict-ridden areas outside the capital (Juba). “Having additional troops means we can carry out more tasks related to our mandate, to protect civilians and build durable peace,” This action will allow existing UNMISS troops based in Juba, to be relocated across the country to protect civilians, offer humanitarian assistance, and report on human rights abuses.