Jessica Gregson’s blog

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(Intermission: South Sudan)

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2015-08-30 13.41.52

Still perfecting the back-of-a-boda selfie

It’s been a turbulent couple of weeks in South Sudan. On 16 August, the day before I came back to Juba, the President fired a number of State Governors, and detained the Governor of Western Equatoria. A few days later, a journalist was seemingly assassinated (coming soon after the President’s fairly unequivocal threat to journalists). A few days after that, the Speaker of the Legislature of Western Equatoria was shot and killed. Rumours have abounded about other secret assassinations and disappearances. All this against the backdrop of the latest peace treaty, which was signed by the opposition in Addis last week, and which Salva Kiir finally, finally signed in Juba yesterday.

Kiir did a pretty good job of keeping everyone guessing right up until the last minute. On Tuesday afternoon the Juba rumour mill started churning: Kiir was going to sign tomorrow. But what did that mean? The papers were being flown in from Addis? Were the other East African leaders flying in? Was the airport going to shut down? Had Kiir refused to fly to Addis to sign last night because he feared that if he did so, there’d be a coup in his absence? (Possibly.) Yesterday morning police motorbikes were zipping back and forth between the Ministries and the airport; we were all sent home early as a precaution, and while working from home I got on Twitter (which I pretty much only do when I’m following something minute by minute that’s not being very widely reported) to keep up with the afternoon’s agonising progress. Speech after speech from East African leaders (including Museveni confusingly exhorting South Sudan to “get foreigners out of your affairs”; does someone need to break it to him that he’s actually a foreigner too?) – and then President Kiir delivering one of the most ponderous prevaricating addresses it has ever been my ill-fortune to watch live-tweeted. In many ways it was actually a masterful demonstration of the art of suspense: halfway through I was still uncertain whether he was actually going to sign, or whether this was some kind of epic mic-drop trolling, almost admirable for its sheer nerve.

In the end, of course, he did sign, despite giving every indication that he was only doing so because of international pressure, and submitting multiple pages of reservations. This is the eighth (? – I think) ceasefire that’s been declared since December 2013, and it’s hard to have much faith that this one will be honoured, given the spirit of reluctance and equivocation with which it was signed. I don’t want to be cynical – I want to believe that this is going to make a difference for the hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese across the country who’ve been displaced or forced into PoCs or conscripted or otherwise brutalised by this conflict. For now, we wait.


Written by Jess

August 27, 2015 at 11:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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