The forthcoming celebration of a peace deal in South Sudan is likely to shore up hope for peace and stability as warring leaders strive to build confidence in ending the country’s prolonged conflict, experts said on Monday.
Jok Madut Jok, co-founder and director of Sudd Institute, a Juba-based think-tank, said the celebration for the signing of a peace deal should involve leaders and ordinary citizens in order for the current normalcy to hold.
“If there is now peace between the leaders, it would seem more logical that they go to their constituencies together to appeal to them to end the war because the leaders’ rivalry is already over,” Jok told Xinhua during an interview in Juba. “People need something more substantive, more meaningful and more concrete in terms of building the confidence to end the war,” he added.
Jok said the leaders should now use the peace agreement as an opportunity to carry out nationwide tours to convince the citizens and rebels to end hostilities and embrace unity.
“Even though the leaders are the ones competing for public office and making their constituencies fight for them, the reality is that it is the youth, children and women from the grassroots who suffer,” said Jok.
The South Sudanese government has scheduled October 31 as the country’s peace day celebration, and the main opposition leader, Riek Machar, is expected to attend as a gesture of reconciliation and unity.
Augustino Ting Mayai, a professor at the University of Juba’s School of Public Service, said that the event will be an opportunity for President Salva Kiir and Machar to showcase to the citizens, the region and the world that they are ready to implement the agreement in letter and spirit.
“Considering president Kiir’s reaching out to Machar to come to Juba to celebrate together the agreement ahead of the implementation of the deal, Machar’s positive responses is a great point of refresher for peace in the country,” said Mayai.
It demonstrated an element of political will from the leaders to pave way for the realization of achieving sustainable peace in the world’s youngest nation, the scholar said.
Denis Dumo Scopas, a Juba-based journalist, echoed Jok’s sentiment, saying the celebration will act as a good starting point for leaders to win the hearts of the masses.
“What is needed for the parties to the agreement is to convince the public, region and international community by improving the security situation within the country through their actions ahead of the next transitional period,” Scopas said.
He emphasised that the leaders should work hard to put the interest of the people above their political gains and to create a conducive environment to spur economic recovery.
President Kiir, his former deputy and arch rival Machar, and several other opposition groups signed a power-sharing deal in September in Ethiopia to end hostilities that claimed thousands of lives while creating one of the world’s biggest refugee crises.
South Sudan’s conflict, which was entering into its fifth year before the cessation of hostilities, erupted in 2013 after forces loyal to Kiir and Machar engaged in combat.
Millions of South Sudanese civilians had sought refuge in neighbouring countries as the conflict raged on despite attempts by international players to end it.