By David Lumu
The South Sudan conflict started last December. With it came heavy sparks of violence against humanity and mass murder of thousands of innocent civilians, according to a recently released United Nations report.
Over 1.2 million people were forced to flee their homes, the UN report states.
Today the conflict puzzle that has pre-occupied the world and regional bodies, especially the question of how to end the conflict, might be unlocked.
Already, rebel chief Riek Machar has arrived in Ethiopia for talks with President Salva Kiir, who is also expected later this (Friday) afternoon.
In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, the chairperson of the African Union said that the Kiir-Machar first ever interface since the crisis started in the world’s youngest country, will help a great deal to solve what has been “a deteriorating situation on the ground, marked by widespread abuses against civilians and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
LEFT-RIGHT: President Salva Kiir, his predecessor John Garang and former vice president Riek Machar
The peace-talks are under the auspices of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, the chairperson of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), bloc where Uganda is a member.
Now, according to experts, whatever way the talks swings, the meeting of the two actors—Kiir and Machar—would be beneficial for Uganda’s—political, military and social-economic sectors.
Yet, according to Prof. Sabiti Makara of the Makerere University Department of Political Science and Public Administration, if peace doesn’t prevail in South Sudan, regional players, especially Uganda could face chilling effects on the trade side.
“South Sudan needs Uganda almost for everything. And for Uganda to benefit from this nascent market, peace must prevail. Whoever takes power in South Sudan will need Uganda. Uganda is the nerve of that country,” he said.
Analyzing today’s meeting between Kiir and Machar; Makara says that, they would be no winner.
“What South Sudan needs is a win-win situation,” he said.
The conflict in South Sudan forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes. PHOTO/AFP
The conflict also brought along an overwhelming sense of desperation among those affected. There was a flight of refugees into neighbouring Uganda. PHOTO/AFP
Dispelling of the talk that if Machar takes over South Sudan, Uganda could lose, Makara said that there are many things that South Sudan needs from Uganda and that any leader who takes over Juba would have nothing to do but to establish direct talks with Kampala.
“Uganda stands a big deal to win whatever way the talks go. Any leader who takes over South Sudan will need Uganda even if such a leader enjoys a great deal of support from Khartoum,” he said.
Recently President Yoweri Museveni told Justin Greening, the UK Secretary for International Development in a meeting in London during his UK tour that the “South Sudan problem can be solved by regional leaders” and also expressed dismay that the conflict had “succumbed to sectarian ideology instead of fronting a united country, adding that he was talking to both leaders to ensure that peace prevails.”
Government of Uganda estimates that Uganda’s economic loss since the conflict in South Sudan started is over Sh2.2 trillion. At least at the beginning of this year, Dr. Gabriel Ajedra Aridru, the Minister of State for Investment, gave the Sh 2.2 trillion three weeks after the war started.
On top of this, many Ugandan traders have lost money with some crying that their property and businesses have been destroyed.
UPDF is also keeping peace in Juba and protecting some key places in South Sudan.
Experts argue that the results of the mediation process that would take place would not only help South Sudan but the Great Lakes region, especially Uganda.
What Kiir, Machar peace deal means for Uganda