UN: South Sudan deal offers hope, but trust ‘still lacking’ between parties

David Shearer

The landmark peace agreement between the South Sudanese Government and main political opposition offers hope, but trust is ‘still lacking’ between the parties, David Shearer, the UN envoy for the country has said.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, David Shearer, said rebuilding trust and overcoming suspicion would be key to ensure the success of Thursday’s peace deal between the Government and the opposition.

The agreement, reached between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President Riek Machar, is the latest hope to end a bitter conflict plaguing South Sudan for much of its short existence.

No fewer than 50,000 people have been killed and millions displaced from their homes in almost five years of bloody fighting in the world’s youngest nation.

Shearer, who is also the Head of the UN Mission for South Sudan, said the greatest challenges were yet to come during the implementation phase.

He said: “The key ingredient still lacking is trust. The personalities signing the agreement have in the past been former friends and foes.

“From my discussions with all parties, suspicion is widespread… These people have got animosities that go back two decades, three decades even.”

Resolving those differences is vital for a better future of the country, Shearer said, underscoring that it is “beholden on all of us here today to help encourage trust between parties.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also highlighted the challenges ahead and called on the international community to “remain seized” of the situation in South Sudan throughout the implementation of the peace agreement.

In a statement from his spokesperson, Guterres said the UN stood ready, in close coordination with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD, an eight-country trade bloc in Africa) and the African Union, to assist the parties in implementing the agreement.

The peace agreement was signed on Wednesday at the main UN office in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa following 15 months of negotiations led by the IGAD and the Governments of Sudan and Ethiopia.

The regional leadership was crucial in bringing the parties together, he said, noting the role the UN and the international community will be expected to play in assisting with genuine reconciliation and peacebuilding activities.

“However, we need to be persuaded by the demonstration of collective political will of the parties to implement an agreed and realistic implementation plan,” he stressed.

The new agreement came in the aftermath of a series of failed peace deals, including a similar one between the two political rivals in 2015.

Under the new agreement, Machar – who has lived in exile since 2013 – will return to South Sudan and be reinstated as Vice-President under a power-sharing arrangement.

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