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The feeling of hope after the independence of South Sudan was short-lived for many South Sudanese and has now been replaced by cynicism and suspicion. In this light, a new agreement to end war in South Sudan gives only little hope that it will set a different path for the Africa’s youngest nation.

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir and his erstwhile vice president, Dr Riek Machar – the current rebel leader – recently agreed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form an interim government within 60 days. That is all that is known about the agreement. The details remain a mystery. But what is not a mystery is that the two protagonists shook hands – with friends and foes alike – put on forced and wry smiles and expressed commitment to end the war in the country.

But what does all that mean? Are we seeing the end to South Sudan’s problems? Or is this just a coerced re-union? Does President Kiir really want to end the war in the country or is this just another mundane way of telling the world that the Addis Ababa Accord is just a showmanship? Is Riek Machar and his warring cohorts seriously seeking peace or are they simply happy that they have now made it back to Juba?

These are all pertinent questions that, I am sure, are lingering in the minds of all South Sudanese and the concerned citizens of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I want peace, I support it and I would hang on to it with tooth and claw. I am barracking for the restoration of sanity – the return to ‘normalcy’. I want our people to return to their homes and plant crops.

However, we should not shy away from the fair dinkum concern – the likely scenario that will once again be the norm in Juba, which is: it will be business as usual. At least methinks it will be. I intend to be optimistic for South Sudan, but the current circumstances strike right in the heart of what the founding father Dr John Garang used to refer to as “the fundamental question” of the Sudan and which South Sudan has now inherited. That fundamental question sprouts in diverse scenarios, but it’s simply expressed in terms of the oppression of the masses by the centre.

At the advent of South Sudan’s independence an overwhelming hope germinated for South Sudanese, but it quickly grew and metamorphosed into a very bitter crop – too distasteful to chew and swallow. That hope was betrayed and thrown right to the deck of the abyss. The culprits were all and sundry – including the self-proclaimed ‘democrat’ Dr Riek Machar.

In fact, Dr Machar shoulders just as much blame for the crisis as President Kiir. Dr Machar shared in the day-to-day administration of the government. Mr Machar can bark by a dozen, but his excuses are absolutely meretricious and superficial. Why? He could have done better than picking up guns and suspending the country right on the edge of precipice. He can offer an explanation for the rebellion as he may, but that does not and will not absolve him of blame.

Now the parties have gone back to the drawing board, signed an agreement, promised to end the conflict and soon they will promise the citizens some manna. They will reward their inner circles and ‘hunters’ with plum jobs and receive fat pay checks; they will dine and wine and talk ambitions.

Take this on board. Once all the niceties are secured, the quest for lasting peace will vanish into thin air. Who knows, if some other disgruntled general will pick up his gun, incite his henchmen and indulge in bloodshed. It will be an ever revolving cycle.

Despite this cynicism that pervades across all different divides within the South Sudanese communities – at home and in the diaspora – there is a tiny chance that this new agreement may resuscitate the South Sudanese dream. I am sure no South Sudanese expects a golden spoon from the government but what they do expect is a government that provides them with an equal opportunity to work hard and thrive.

For now, I think it will be business as usual in Juba.

* Maker Mayek Riak is a practising lawyer of the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory, email: [email protected]

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