Kitty Shephard, Blog Writer
At the beginning of September a peace agreement to resolve the 20 month old conflict in the young nation of South Sudan was reached. The international community was vocal in pressuring the warring parties, led by President Salva Kiir and former vice president Reik Machar, into signing a peace agreement. Since the signing, several reports have indicated that the peace agreement has been broken and both sides have leveled accusations at the other for these offenses. This raises issues of who will invoke this peace deal and whether the peace deal has a chance of rehabilitating the young country.
The internal politics of South Sudan have been supported from day one by influential powers such as the United States (US). President Obama as a presidential candidate was a strong supporter of the Save Darfur movement and was one of the few to name the escalating situation a genocide. His interest in this region was extended when South Sudan gained independence in 2011 and he paid specific attention to the peace agreement in South Sudan on his visit to East Africa in July of this year. The US’ interest in this region further lies with the The investment America has made in this region emphasizes Obama’s push to prevent South Sudan from becoming another failed state. Something which many predict is almost unachievable; since the conflict started the country’s economy has failed and indications of famine have become more evident.
Despite the US’ interest in South Sudan, US interests and advocacy in Africa in general have waned in the past decade. Countries such as Russia and China are having more influence, especially in Western Africa. These changes in influence show a bigger connection between the political ideologies of Russia and China and those of many African nations. States such as Sudan have aligned themselves closely with Russia and China, integrating their political and economic relationships. The increased influence of these two nations on the continent has likely played a deciding factor in the lack of motivation to intervene by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members to resolve mass atrocities ongoing in the region. UN inaction is also suspected due to the reoccurring accusations that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is western aligned and prone to over- targeting African politicians relative to leaders from elsewhere.
The increase in Russian and Chinese influence in the region, and specifically their inaction in the face of ongoing crimes against humanity, has contributed to protecting war criminals who remain in power in areas of Africa. Countries such as Sudan are strongly aligned with these UNSC members whose ongoing economic and political interactions with Sudan help fund the government’s campaigns of violence. With the US losing influence in the continent, young nations like South Sudan are especially vulnerable to the political machinations of such states that subside on power and greed. This great power influence, along with early violations of the peace agreement, begs the question of whether any peace agreement can be successful in the current political and economic climate in South Sudan.