The civil war in South Sudan broke out on 15 December 2013 and has already resulted in tens of thousands of casualties. The current situation is dramatic: around 2.4m people fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries (UNHCR), and 2m were internally displaced (UNHCR), with as much as 6.3m facing severe food insecurity and relying on WFP assistance. There is continuous gunfight between the opposing factions. Roads are not practicable, while planes are the only means of internal transportation. The huge quantity of weapons in circulation aggravates the conflict: the UN estimates that some 700,000 light weapons (with a high percentage of AK47) are held by civilians.
The main rival factions are the government, led by Salva Kiir, the SPLM/IG, a Dinka ethnic group, the SPLM/IO, mainly a Nuer group whose leader is Riek Machar, the SSOA, an alliance of rebel groups with Gen. Cirillo and representatives of past governments such as Lam Akol and Pagan Amum, and the NAF, the faction of Paul Malong, former Chief of Staff of the Army.
The peace process is divided into different and conflicting initiatives
The High Level Revitalization Forum under the umbrella of IGAD, that entrusted to Ismail Wais the task to revive the 2015 peace agreement between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. The oppositions and the Government complain about the Forum for opposite reasons. They say that it has failed to address the most important issues of the crisis and that there is no possibility for direct confrontation between the parties. The IGAD’s mandate itself is very limited and its Parties do not agree on how to deal with the crisis
The National Dialogue, implemented by President Salva Kiir, foresees a local consultation including also the civilians who fled from the country and live in refugee camps abroad. The Steering Committee has pointed out that no representatives of the opposition have been involved in the process, which is therefore not inclusive. Consultations at provincial level have recently been closed. The Government has been criticized for its poor management of the crisis and blamed for lack of security.
The Community of Sant’Egidio went many times to Juba last year and participated to the National Prayer For Repentance & Forgiveness. It met representatives of the Government, the civil society, the National Dialogue, the Councils of the Elders and oppositions to foster dialogue among the parties.
To this end, the partnership with the South Sudanese Council of Churches, a body of high importance at national level which plays a key role in the process of pacification, has been pivotal. The Community of Sant’Egidio has recently welcomed a SSCC delegation that has been received by Pope Francis. The two entities have subscribed a Protocol of Agreement with the objective of cooperating and establishing peace in the country.