The South Sudan Republic is one of the youngest countries in the world after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011. However, even after many years of the civil war between South Sudan and Sudan, the country has been still facing challenges and conflicts keep on erupting. On December 15, 2013, an armed struggle started across South Sudan between the army of President Salva Kiir’s (the South Sudan Army) and the White Army, an ethnic Nuer militia group loyal to the former South Sudanese vice president, Riek Machar (Blanchard, 2014). The conflict resulted in over a thousand casualties, and more than one million people were displaced. A power struggle exists within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), a South Sudan’s ruling party, between President Salva Kiir, who hails from the Dinka ethnic tribe, and Riek Machar, who is from the Nuer ethnic group. The first is a former war veteran, who has fought and led troops for many years, while Riek Machar has a doctorate in mechanical engineering obtained in Britain. As a result of their academic difference, Machar perceives himself as the one who should lead the young nation due to his intellect. He also believes that he has necessary foresight to guide the country facing turbulent times. Thus, different views of Kiir and Machar are the main cause of the conflict.
In 1991, Riek Machar had a faction that is mostly comprised of people from his ethnic tribe, Nuer, wanting to divert from the ruling party, SPLM. He acted in collaboration with the Sudanese government in Khartoum with an aim of weakening the Kiir’s group. During the split, the forces loyal to Machar killed many Dinkas in what was named the Bor massacre. In 2011, both Kiir and Machar came together to form a government with the former as a president and the latter as his vice president (Huston, 2013). However, during a cabinet purge in July 2013, Kiir dismissed Machar. It had resulted from the accusations of the latter against the former of abusing his executive authority in public. After the dismissal, Machar made a public statement to challenge Kiir as a chairman of the SPLM and asserted that he would also run for the presidency against him in the general elections of 2015 (Blanchard, 2014). In 2011, before South Sudan become independent, the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, had stated that the region should not get independence, as it would lead to ethnic clashes. Prior to those events, the South Sudanese people had unity as they fought against the North led by President Omar al-Bashir (Huston, 2013). However, after gaining independence, they split based on ethnic issues, especially relating to the Nuers and the Dinkas.
The ethnic groups have competed for a long time. Both tribes are Nilotic pastoralists and have always fought for watering points and grazing land. Traditional conflicts have been instigated by political leaders resulting into increased violence. A long civil war between the North and the South in Sudan have led to many herders purchasing firearms (Huston, 2013). However, although there is an ethnic rivalry, the main reason that can explain the recurrent conflicts is economic hardships experienced by the South Sudanese citizens. The government has failed to develop efficient systems to distribute resources and wealth. It is essential for the authority to create opportunities for all citizens and a stable climate for investments. Additionally, the government ought to build a developed infrastructure. The lack of opportunities has enabled politicians and rebel commanders to exploit the grievances of the South Sudanese people, especially the youth (Shulika & Okeke-Uzodike, 2013).
Getting peace in South Sudan can only be achieved after focusing on national reconciliation. Currently, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediates between the Machar’s rebel forces and the Kiir’s government during peace negotiations. In addition, it is necessary for the troops from neighboring Uganda, which is supporting the government forces, to leave South Sudan. It is because the conflict is between the two political leaders, and as soon as they reach an agreement, the fight will cease. For example, in neighboring Kenya, after the 2007 presidential elections, there was a conflict between two leading presidential candidates, Raila Odinga of the ODM and Mwai Kibaki of the PNU (Adebayo, 2012). As a result, there were ethnic conflicts that led to a thousand deaths and displacements of the South Sudanese people. However, when the two parties had come to an agreement and shared powers, the conflicts ended, and the national healing process started in the country. A similar situation is in existence in South Sudan, and only an agreement between Kiir and Machar can guarantee peace to the young nation.
To conclude, in order to find a long-lasting political solution, the negations between Kiir and Machar should focus more on reforms in the security sector. Moreover, the government should release the remaining political detainees alleged of plotting a coup after Machar’s dismissal from power as a vice president. There should also be engagement of both citizens and politicians in a dialogue to restructure the SPLM. Infrastructure projects that the government should build will provide the local people with employment opportunities, extend protection on the part of the police, and enhance fluidity. Therefore, it is clear that the conflict in South Sudan is a result of political disagreements between President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar. Thus, it will continue until the two political enemies reconcile.