A South Sudanese woman poses with her World Food Programme (WFP) card which she uses to receive food and other aid, in Nyal, Unity State, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ilya Gridneff)

While prospective donors and charities meet to try and raise funds for South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis, civil war rages on writes Peter Fabricius.

Johannesburg - No doubt with a rather depressing sense of déjà vu, donor countries and charitable organisations will gather in Oslo on Monda and Tuesday to try to find the money to respond to the huge and growing humanitarian crisis triggered by the civil war in South Sudan.

As the civil war has unfolded from its start on December 15, the budget to address its humanitarian impact, has risen from about $1.3 billion to a hefty $1.8bn, according to the latest assessment report by the UN.

It estimates that by the end of the year, 7.3 million people will require some humanitarian help, about 4 million face “alarming food insecurity”, up to 1.5 million will become internally displaced, and 863 000 will seek refuge in neighbouring countries – while 270 000 refugees from Sudan remain in South Sudan.

It is a staggering burden which South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former vice-president Riek Machar have imposed by their power struggle which evolved into a war between Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer people.

The pledging conference this week is taking place in Norway because it has been deeply involved in efforts to help the South Sudanese for a long time.

As Jens-Petter Kjemprud, Norway’s Special Envoy to Sudan, acknowledges, the organisers are a little concerned about donor fatigue, with a spate of recent competing demands, in Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic and elsewhere.

The donors will need to have confidence that the cessation of hostilities which Kiir and Machar signed will hold if they are to deliver on their pledges. Kjemprud is hopeful that neither will want to lose face with the international community by breaking the truce.

The UN report fears that the imminent start of the rainy season will hamper efforts to deliver humanitarian aid. But the rain – which lasts up to eight months – might just help in the longer run because it will also hamper the fighting, perhaps long enough for the mediators to broker a more substantial agreement which addresses the causes of the conflict.

The mediation is being led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the regional body, while an intra-party dialogue within the ruling SPLM is being conducted by the ANC – through Cyril Ramaphosa – and Ethiopia’s ruling EPRDF party.

That is because both parties have had a long relationship with the SPLM and as the conflict emanates from disputes within the party. The mediators have a huge task because the divisions within the SPLM and the country are so complex, as Kjemprud pointed out. They are not just personal divisions, but also political, ideological, ethnic and geographic. If there is a silver lining in that complexity of cross-cutting divisions, it is that the divisions don’t all reinforce each other, which could make them easier to bridge.

For the ANC and the EPRDF the main question is probably whether the SPLM can be saved at all as a single entity.

Kjemprud also cautioned that the Commission of Inquiry which the African Union appointed very quickly to investigate the many human rights violations committed since December 15, was carrying a heavy responsibility.

Sceptics believe the AU acted so fast to pre-empt prosecution by the unloved International Criminal Court and that it intends to put most of the emphasis on the healing and reconciliation rather than the accountability parts of its mandate. But Kjemprud said the chairperson of the commission, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, had acknowledged that the commission had already seen evidence of appalling atrocities.

If the perpetrators were granted impunity, the Nuer people especially, who bore the brunt of the initial slaughter, might not be reconciled to any peace agreement. “This is a very serious test for the AU,” he said.

Cape Times