The new peace agreement signed Wednesday 12 September by president Salva Kiir and Riek Machar rebel leader is welcomed with a mixture of caution and skepticism, both in the country and the international community.
In the streets of the capital Juba, many southerners felt the urge to celebrate the agreement signed the day before in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For those who have experienced some of the fiercest fightings early in the war, and then again in July 2016, when the final peace agreement has been shattered, the trust is broken with the signatories of the agreement.
Obtained at the end of a long process of ‘renewal’ under the aegis of the regional organization Igad (Intergovernmental Authority for Development), the new agreement is the result of intense diplomatic pressure. The United Nations Security Council, especially, imposed an embargo on arms destined for the government of South Sudan until May 31, 2019, and sanctions against two military officials.
According to the new peace agreement, Salva Kiir remains president of the government of South Sudan, while Riek Machar finds his former position of first Vice President. A form of status quo, with the same leaders to the same positions, which also disappointed foreign observers. For John Prendergast of the Enough Project American organization, the Addis Ababa agreement has “significant gaps.”
Two diplomats stationed in Addis Ababa have expressed, under cover of anonymity, their caution. “Skepticism prevails,” conceded the first while, for the second, the peace agreement “is certainly not perfect. But for these diplomats, and more broadly the region leaders involved in peace efforts for nearly five years, an imperfect agreement is better than no agreement at all.
“We remain concerned by the level of commitment of the parties to this agreement,” and warned the Group of the “Troika,” comprising Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States – historical sponsors of the independence of the country and major donors. And the group to ask the South Sudanese leaders a “change of attitude,” otherwise the agreement “won’t be able to bring about the peace that the people of South Sudan deserves.”
Much more optimistic, Xu Jinghu, the Special Representative of the Chinese Government for the African Affairs, wanted to see in the peace agreement “a best practice of African solution to an African problem by Africans.”
A feeling that found a little echo among the southerners interviewed Thursday. “The peace agreement is signed, and it is better than no agreement at all, but I cannot praise the parties that if they implement,” testified so Mary Nyoka, a teacher at Juba, scarred by the failure of the previous peace agreement (2015) and violations countless cease-fire. Susy Williams was on quite pessimistic: “I don’t think there’s any hope.”