ADDIS ABABA (HAN) September 23.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News.OPINION By Tesfaye Lema. Ethiopia has been actively working for the thriving of regional peace in the Horn of Africa. It has been devoted to bringing about lasting peace in Somalia. In collaboration with other stakeholders, the country has created various platforms to bringing the conflicting parties in South Sudan to a peaceful dialogue and negotiation and hence end the dire situation in that country.
For long, Ethiopia has been contributing a lot to ensure regional and continental peace. Previously, it has also been participating in peacekeeping activities of the United Nations Security Council in different African countries. Recently the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailenariam Dessalegn has reaffirmed that Ethiopia, along with the international community, will strengthen its efforts to ensure lasting peace in South Sudan.
The international community bear witness to how the country is devoted to maintaining peace and security. United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon has once expressed his appreciation and admiration of what Ethiopia has been doing to realize peace and stability.
He has also urged Ethiopia to increase its constructive role in managing the situation in South Sudan, in collaboration with IGAD member states. “Ethiopia should sustain its effort to resolve frequent problems in the region,” he said.
The situation in South Sudan needs serious support from all peace loving stakeholders, particularly Ethiopia’s effort is significant. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands of citizens have been forced to flee their homes and take refuge in neighboring countries or remain internally displaced. Human rights violations have been an everyday reality and committed on a daily basis, which made five million South Sudanese food insecure. The African Union and the International Community urged both parts to be committed for peace, truth and reconciliation process. There are a number of stakeholders working together to initiate peace and reconciliation process in that country with international backing.
It is known that South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011 based on the 2005 agreement to ending the prolonged civil war. It is now one of the most diverse countries in Africa and it is home to over 60 different major ethnic groups. According to reports from World Bank, the Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation and Africa’s 55th country on July 9, 2011, following a peaceful secession from the Sudan through a referendum in January 2011.
However, conflict hasn’t come to an end yet. Just right after a few years, the country was engaged in a severe civil war once again. The war in 2013-2015 not only displaced more than 2.2 million South Sudanese but also paralyzed the country’s socio-economic and political situation.
Of course, the country has the dual challenge of dealing with the legacy of more than 50 years of conflict and continued instability, along with huge development needs. In fact, formal institutions are being built from scratch and the capacity of government to formulate policy and implement programmes was limited, but improving from time to time. It has significant oil wealth, which, if effectively utilized to drive development, could provide the basis for development. However, a new conflict erupted. The two-year long conflict, which broke out in Juba in December 2013 deteriorated development gains achieved since independence and worsened the humanitarian situation.
Despite the vast and largely untapped natural resources of the country, it remains undeveloped, characterized by a subsistence economy. It is the most oil-dependent country in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports, and around 60 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Documents from World Bank indicated that the country’s GDP per capita in 2014 was $1,111. Outside the oil sector, livelihoods are concentrated in low productive, unpaid agriculture and pastoralists work, accounting for around 15 per cent of GDP. In fact, 85 per cent of the working population is engaged in non-wage work, chiefly in agriculture.
The incidence of poverty has worsened, from 44.7 per cent in 2011 to more than 58.5 per cent in 2015, with a corresponding increase in the depth of poverty that the country’s economy is one of the weakest and most underdeveloped, the report added.
South Sudan also contains many natural resources such as petroleum, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, gold, and hydropower. It was producing 85 per cent of Sudanese oil output before its independence. The oil revenues were to be split equally as it relies on pipelines, refineries and port facilities in North Sudan.
In recent years, a significant amount of foreign-based oil drilling has begun in South Sudan, raising its geopolitical profile. The people are suffering due to the inability or unwillingness of the warring factions to make peace.
It is a miserable experience that over 100,000 civilians are given food aid air-dropped by the World Food Programme. South Sudan has become an aid-dependent entity, bringing necessary questions about the sustainability of this arrangement. The ability for states to survive principally from the support of governments, donors or corporations looking to turn a profit is doubtful.
In December 2013 an internal power struggle within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement quickly degenerated into an outright conflict. Talks mediated by the Inter Governmental Authority on Development repeatedly failed to produce a permanent ceasefire.
In December 2013, a political power struggle broke out between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. The president accused Mr. Machar and ten others of attempting a coup d’état. Machar denied trying to start a coup and fled, calling for Kiir to resign.
More than a million people have fled their homes since fighting broke out between government and rebel forces. President Salva Kiir says it was a coup attempt, blaming soldiers loyal to former Vice-President Riek Machar for the trouble, but Mr Machar denies this. Up to 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the war, including notable atrocities such as the 2014 Bentiu massacre.
Ugandan troops were deployed to fight alongside South Sudanese government forces against the rebels. In January 2014, the first ceasefire agreement was reached. Fighting still continued and would be followed by yet another ceasefire agreements.
Ethiopia has been playing an indispensable role in bringing the two warring parts to a peace deal. In 2015, a peace agreement was signed that envisages transitional justice, accountability, local and national reconciliation, and healing mechanisms as issues to be addressed.
The peace agreement was signed in Ethiopia under the threat of United Nations sanctions for both sides in August 2015. Machar returned to Juba in 2016 and was appointed Vice President.
In early 2016, following two years of extreme violence, a new government was voted into power. Relative calm has been restored in some parts of the country but tensions remain high, as the underlying causes of the conflict and effects of violence have not yet been addressed.
The country’s situations have now become worse despite all efforts to ensure lasting peace in South Sudan. In fact, the country is strict to realize the economic integration as it envisioned to join middle income countries in the shortest possible time. This could be done if all countries in the region are integrated economically. This is possible only when peace and stability is guaranteed. Cognizant of that fact, the government of Ethiopia has been exerting a coordinated effort to integrate the region.
In this regard, the Ethiopian government has been playing a leading role in anti-terrorism campaign in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia and South Sudan. The government of Ethiopia is determined to continue its peace efforts in South Sudan. Besides, it has been hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the country. Together with the African Union and the United Nations Security Council, Ethiopian have been striving to help South Sudan brothers for the past three consecutive years.
Ethiopia is committed to realize the economic integration as it envisions to become a middle income country in the shortest possible time. This could be done if all countries in the region are integrated economically and sustain their respective economic development. That is why Ethiopia is committed to regional peace, stability and integration.