By Olive Mukahirwa
On March 15, the United Nations Security Council voted to extend its peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for one more year. The mission began in 2018 when Sudan’s devastating war ended. That war claimed the lives of 380,000 people and displaced millions more. The United Nations mission includes 17,000 soldiers and 2,101 police officers. Responsibilities include protecting the people, facilitating the delivery of aid, helping implement the peace process, and monitoring implementation of the peace agreement and international human rights laws
Tensions are running high in South Sudan between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. In early March, Kiir fired Minister of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs Angelina Teny (Riek Machar’s wife) – a decision Riek Machar said was against the agreement he signed with Kiir in 2018 when both men agreed to end the war and share power.
“Restoring peace in South Sudan is not the work of one man but the joint efforts of all South Sudanese; I hope that President Salva Kiir will return and honor the agreement of peace in letter and spirit,” said Puok Baluang, Riek Machar’s press secretary.
Abraham Kuol, associate professor of political science at the University of Juba, said, “When we look at the current political situation in South Sudan, we immediately remember the bad times this country went through around 2016, and the current environment is definitely causing the people of South Sudan to panic.”
The transitional government in South Sudan was set to expire in 2022, but the two parties have agreed to extend the term and mandate up to December 2024, when the country will be holding its first general elections.
Refugees from South Sudan are the most numerous in Africa, with 2.3 million South Sudanese having fled to neighboring countries and 2.2 million internally displaced because of conflict.
The International Criminal Court is considering a case against seven current and former high-level South Sudanese officials for allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
According to Voice of America, the case alleges the seven officials committed widespread and systematic violations of international law, including violence against civilians, the deliberate use of starvation, sexual, gender-based violence, and mass forcible displacement in South Sudan.