By Munira Abdelmenan Awel and Sadik Kedir Abdu
Though recent developments in South Sudan have sparked hope for an end to the civil war, at the urging of various countries and international institutions, prospects overall remain dim.
A peace deal between the young Horn of Africa country’s warring parties was signed in 2015, though the peace was soon shattered by renewed fighting that erupted in mid-2016 amid mutual recriminations.
Visiting Ethiopia for an African Union summit on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged a stop to the conflict, stressing the severe humanitarian crisis in the country.
“It is a horrific conflict and needs to stop,” Guterres said, noting a recent meeting in Khartoum, Sudan between South Sudan’s warring parties to facilitate peace.
The latest revised proposal was sent to South Sudanese parties on July 12, according to a local media report.
The proposal emphasizes power distribution between the parties and is said to solve the core problems of the country and bring rapprochement, according to the Sudan Tribune.
It added that the mediator team includes Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, and Riek Machar, Kiir’s former deputy.
The severity of the crisis also led the UN Security Council last week to impose a sweeping arms embargo on the country.
"South Sudan’s people have endured unimaginable suffering and unspeakable atrocities," Nikki Haley, the U.S.'s UN envoy, told the council.
"The arms embargo is a measure to protect civilians and help stop the violence. For negotiations to work, we must end the cycle of broken promises to stick to a cease-fire," she added.
The U.K. minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin on Wednesday also urged the parties to stop conflicts that result in the loss of lives and displacements of civilians. She added that human rights violations would not be tolerated.
Rocky path to peace
On June 21, Kiir and rebel leader Machar met in Ethiopia for the first time in two years since the ruined August 2016 peace deal.
Khartoum took the initiative to host peace talks in an effort to end the civil war in the world's youngest nation.
While the two conflicting parties are expected to sign a peace deal in Khartoum, there is a real chance that they will not. South Sudan’s Minister of Information Michael Makuei told local media that his government has reservations about several parts of the proposal.
"We have not yet decided to sign it," he said on Wednesday.
Makuei also said the new proposal is little different from the previous one: "As I stated earlier, it is likely to be even more problematic than the provisions of the revitalized bridging proposal in Ethiopia,"
South Sudan’s civil war broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of attempting a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings across the country in which both the government and the rebels have been accused of widespread atrocities.
Over half the country's 12 million people need aid, according to the UN, including over 2 million displaced into neighboring countries.