In Thursday, South Sudan’s government and opposition signed a ceasefire agreement in the Ethiopian capital. The ceasefire might become a basis for a future deal that will initiate peace in the world’s youngest country.
Though the ceasefire agreement per se is unable to unequivocally guarantee peaceful resolution, the particular characteristics of the Sudanese case brings a basis for high hopes for the following peace agreement. These peculiarities comes from actors who are involved, either directly or indirectly, and who share the mutual determination for a peaceful solution. On the first sight, this internal situation is a platform of the interlacing multi-dimensional interests. It includes three levels of actors all of whom will benefit from the prompt peace.
On the first and the narrowest level are the direct actors representing South Sudan: government and opposition. Despite the fact that they represent opposite sides on many vital questions that are underlying the challenge, they are united in their desire for the legitimate and credible independence status for South Sudan. Both parties want their newly emerged country to justify its existence in the eyes of the international community. Consequently, both parties would try to escape scenarios that may make international actors challenge South Sudan’s capability to act as the sovereign entity. Evidently, the conflict represents a test for the parties in terms of their ability to guarantee internal peace without direct international involvement, and Sudanese actors will have to cooperate to pass this exam successfully. Apart from the political aspect, the need for government and opposition to cooperate is also dictated by vital mutual economic interests. It is in both side’s interest to reassure global economic actors in country’s stability and therein restore the high level of foreign investments into the world’s youngest country.
On a bit broader, regional, level we meet another actor, Sudan, with its strong determination to reach peace in South Sudan. As a recipient of revenue from the oil pipeline from South Sudan, Sudan has already felt financial consequences from the ongoing conflict for its economy. Several weeks after the onset of the conflict, President Omar al-Bashit arrived to Juba to call for a rapid peaceful resolution. Sudanese economic indicators will determine the level of Sudan’s involvement in peace-leading process: the lower they will be, the more pressure President Omar al-Bashit will put on the parties to agree on a peaceful solution.
On the third and the broadest dimension of actors interested in prompt peace is the international community, represented most loudly by the USA, UK and China, countries most actively backing South Sudan’s independence. The USA and China sent their special envoys to help mediate at the Ethiopian talks shortly after the onset of the challenge. Having invested enormous efforts and money to guarantee South Sudan’s independence, these countries need prompt peace in order to prove that what they have achieved in 2011 is justified today.
The US was, and remains, the biggest donor to South Sudan and the main political backer of the county’s independence. For them the stability and peace in the country is a matter of their image and reputation. China’s political interests are also largely aligned with economic ones. As the biggest investor to South Sudan’s oil industry, China was affected by South Sudan’s cut in oil production by almost the fifth. Thus, though these global powers are removed and indirect mediators to the peace talks, the high stakes that they have in regard to the region suggest that their role in the process will go beyond the mere diplomatic assistance. The interests that they pursue may incentivize them to direct their excessive resources to ensure the implementation of ceasefire agreement, monitoring of truce and its further involvement into tangible peace settlement.
These additional participants contributing to the peace talks are definitely raising hopes for the overall success. As a center of political and economic interests for various actors, the peace talks are illustrating the combination of efforts and resources necessary to make the ceasefire endure and eventually lead to a full-scale agreement.
To what extent may the roles of external actors and their interests in peaceful resolution guarantee an internal success in the world’s youngest nation?