After five years of civil war, the UN envoy for South Sudan said on Tuesday that fighting in the world’s newest nation “has diminished greatly” since last September’s peace agreement – and so has political fighting.
David Shearer said at a news conference that he is encouraged by “a number of positive things”.
Opposition members once at war are now in the capital of Juba participating in the peace process “and it’s moving forward”, he said.
More than 15 “peace meetings” between the opposition, government and armed forces have taken place amicably across the country, and civilians in UN protected sites are starting to return home, he added.
On the less positive side, Shearer said the UN peacekeeping mission, which he heads, is concerned “that the momentum of the peace agreement and the peace talks might slow”.
There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after gaining its independence from neighbouring Sudan in 2011.
But it plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who is a Nuer.
Fighting has killed almost 400 000 people, displaced millions and left more than seven million – two-thirds of the population – in “dire need” of humanitarian aid.
Many peace agreements have failed, but since the September deal was signed, the previously warring parties have been trying to rebuild trust.
“If I look back four months ago or five months ago, I would have said chances of being where we are today is unlikely – and we’re here,” Shearer said.
“And what I’d like to be able to think is that in five months from now, we will be in a better and different place than we are now – along a positive road,” he said.
Shearer said there are still many issues to be resolved, including some fighting in the southern Equatorias region and political matters.
He said the UN has been told the South Sudanese will produce a plan later this week on how forces loyal to Kiir, Machar and others will come together and how the security sector will be reformed.
Portfolios in the government are also still being worked out, particularly with the opposition alliance of non-Machar groups, he said.
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