|Refugees in the civil war in S. Sudan. (Photo/CRI Online)|
In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the President of S. Sudan Salva Kiir and its former Vice President Riek Machar have just signed a ceasefire agreement between their forces, to take effect within 24 hours. It was their first face to face meeting since the outbreak of the civil war in S. Sudan in mid-December last year. Whether the new agreement can be implemented effectively will be a test of the desire for peace on both sides.
Political rivalries, cause of the conflict
Southern Sudan’s crisis started in July 2013 after the President of South Sudan Salva Kiir dissolved the government and discharged Vice President Riek Machar from his duties. Differences and conflict between various domestic political camps intensified in S. Sudan, which finally led to the spread of armed conflict between government forces and gunmen loyal to Machar.
He Wen Ping, director of the Institute of Africa Studies at the Academy of Social Sciences of China, believes that this leadership conflict is the root cause of instability in S. Sudan, and the essence of the struggle is the contention for power between the two factions. Since S. Sudan has just gained independence and its government officials lack experience in governance, the country is at an exploratory stage in terms of both economic recovery and international relations. In addition, struggles for power and wealth among different tribes are also a reason for the weak control of central government over the military, which tends to exacerbate the conflict.
Although the two parties have reached a new agreement, the question of distribution of power between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar has not yet been resolved, and that distribution of power is linked to a correlation of interests. The oil industry, as the economic lifeline in S. Sudan, is the focal point of contention between the parties. How to divide the"oil cake" is an important factor which will affect any genuine will to achieve peace.
Game behind the conflict of interests
South Sudan is considered economically underdeveloped, although it is rich in oil resources. According to an official statement, the production of crude oil reached 245,000 barrels per day at its peak, representing 95 percent of gross national income. Thus, the control of the economic lifeline is the key to the success and failure of the peace agreement between the two parties.
At the moment Kiir holds the advantage in military terms, while Machar controls S. Sudan's oil-producing areas.
The two parties want more money, and want to allay the fears of foreign investors through the ceasefire agreement. But they may plan to start the fight again after the benefits have been reaped.
When will the civil war end in S. Sudan?
The civil war has done long-term damage to South Sudan: creating hardship for the people, damaging foreign investment, and causing oil production to stagnate. He Wenping believes that as the biggest investor in the oil fields of S. Sudan, China has been deeply affected by the civil war. Company employees have been forced to withdraw due to the interruption of oil production. If the war continues to expand, China’s oil installations and other fixed assets will be affected, and Chinese personnel and property will be at risk as well.
He Wenping believes that the attainment of a power-sharing agreement will be very difficult; even the negotiations will not be easy.
The main reason behind the civil war in S. Sudan is the conflict of interests between political figures and tribes. The root causes are also linked to the country's weak economic foundations, and the difficulty in achieving long-term development. The authorities must consider how to develop the economy and improve the people's listadnard of living as their first priorities.
Edited and translated by Huang Jin, People's Daily Online
The article is edited and translated from 南苏丹内战何时休? source: People's Daily Overseas Edition, Author: Li Xiao