South Sudan begins the new year brimming with hope for brighter days ahead, with the expected formation of a unity government to restore peace in the country.
The world’s youngest nation has been beset by conflict for six years, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions more.
The prolonged war has pushed South Sudan to become Africa’s biggest refugee crisis, coming third worldwide after Syria and Afghanistan.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, close to 2.2 million South Sudanese citizens have sought refuge in neighboring countries, with Uganda bearing the biggest brunt. Some 857,268 South Sudan refugees were hosted there as of 30 November 2019.
But an ongoing peace process is expected to restore calm in the country, with a transitional unity government scheduled to be formed in February 2020.
The country’s rival factions agreed in early December to form the long-delayed transitional unity government that is expected to pave the way for national democratic elections to restore lasting peace.
Since December 2013 when the war broke out, South Sudan has gone through a lengthy period of economic struggle, seen it developments stalled, and also seen a collapse of its education and health sectors.
The recent drive towards peace has not only been backed by locals, but also by regional and international players.
Earlier this month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi urged the country’s factions to ensure success in the search for peace.
“The momentum towards the implementation of the peace agreement must be sustained in order to ensure the safety of civilians and guarantee solutions for those affected. It is their only ray of hope,” said Grandi.
Now just days away, the people of South Sudan can look into the new year with hope and optimism for a better future. The millions of refugees can finally head back home without fears for their lives. Children can be able to go back to school and the sick can finally receive treatment in local hospitals.
Both President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar have expressed optimism that the country will have lasting peace sooner rather than later, a feeling shared by Filippo Grandi.
“Only a political solution can end the crisis and bring relief to those who have been displaced over and over again,” Grandi said.
(With input from un.org)