Dr Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president of South Sudan on Tuesday afternoon. The passing of this political rite hopefully marked the beginning of an end to years of bloodletting in this, our youngest northern neighbour.
When South Sudan won independence from The Sudan in July 2011, there was a lot of giddiness around. Many thought of the prospects the world’s youngest nation proffered to the Great Lakes region as a whole, and Uganda particularly. We had participated in liberating that country, paying a very high price along the way. More importantly, the belief was that with South Sudan calmed down, our own northern frontier would finally find true peace.
But the outbreak of hostilities following a power struggle between Dr Machar (former deputy leader) and President Salva Kiir in 2013 set off a chain of catastrophic events that has seen at least half a million people murdered and almost two million displaced.
Life in South Sudan has been brutish to put it mildly. The horrors as have been witnessed there should never happen in these enlightened times; the Nuer and Dinka communities have suffered immense mutual atrocities in this fight.
The civil war in South Sudan has threatened to nullify all new opportunities which had been foretold with the birth of the new country. The consequences of such a possibility would have been profound. This is why all regional and global players who ensured that this country did not go up in flames must be applauded.
Everyone who persisted in dragging Dr Machar and Mr Kiir to a negotiated settlement deserves recognition. The arrival of Dr Machar in Juba is but a small step in what will be an arduous journey in repairing broken trusts. It could all unravel very quickly as typical. It could also stay the course. The hope is that South Sudan finds its feet and walks to the table of free nations unfettered by its bloody history.
South Sudan was only recently accepted into the East African Community. It has a duty to remain true to the ideals which the EAC’s founders envisaged would make our region a beacon of hope in the restive Great Lakes.
The EAC is a socio-political economic bloc whose partner nations foreswore to uphold the universal principles which make respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy sacrosanct. These principles are upheld to varying degrees in the five ‘founding nations’ of the community. We invite South Sudan to set out early on a path which will see it cherish these pillars of our existence.
The issue: South Sudan peace deal.
Our view: South Sudan was only recently accepted into the East African Community. It has a duty to remain true to the ideals which the EAC’s founders envisaged would make our region a beacon of hope in the these restive Great Lakes.