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15 JUL 2014

Bold new approaches needed to bring South Sudan back from the brink

On the country’s third independence day, civil society actors debate the fate of their nation.

It has been seven months since conflict sparked in South Sudan, but talks between parties in Addis Ababa have failed to deliver the one thing they were set up to achieve: peace. On the country’s third independence day, prominent civil society members met in Addis Ababa to debate what is needed to bring their country back from the brink.

A dramatic overhaul of existing systems of governance, a shift to truly inclusive peacemaking processes, and a more open political environment were raised as methods that have the potential to bring lasting change to the conflict-ridden country. Leaders were urged to stop prioritising their own interests ahead of the needs of the people of South Sudan.

“Warring parties must stop wanting to be something, and start thinking about what they can do for their people in order for this to end,” said academic and Sudd Institute founder Jok Madut Jok. Civil society activist Edmund Yakani suggested it might be time to consider political options other than the founding Sudan People's Liberation Movement in order for the country to move forward towards a more open democracy.  

Lawyer David Deng said core issues of corruption, impunity and injustice must be addressed by the proposed transitional government if conflicts such as the one that has ravaged the country since December are to be avoided in the future. Nyanuer William Nyuon, founder of Women Cry for Peace, said women had a right to play a bigger role in peace negotiations.

“Women are the most affected people in this current crisis. We should be given the chance to be at that table to have a say in what kind of peace we want,” she said.

Julia Duany, Vice Chancellor of John Garang University, said this independence day should be an important moment of hard reflection for all South Sudanese.  

“We must think critically what it means to be South Sudanese. It’s time to choose the right path, and that path is peace,” she said.

The debate was organised by Oxfam and chaired by author and journalist James Copnall before an audience comprising representatives from the government, the opposition, civil society, NGOs, donor countries, the United Nations, the African Union Commission and union member states, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development . Head of Oxfam's AU Liaison Office Desire Assogbavi said in conclusion: "How do we bring peace back to South Sudan? We now have a big basket of ideas thanks to tonight's discussion."

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