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To Guarantee Peace in South Sudan, Truth and Reconciliation is the Way Forward

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Courtesy of Surian Soosay/flickr

This article was originally published by the Harvard International Review (HIR) on 5 July 2016.

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, and one of its most troubled. Rich in oil reserves and with vast fertile lands it could—if peace is assured—feed itself and much of Africa. Instead, it has been racked by internal violence. Since its independence from northern Sudan in 2011, a devastating civil war has left tens of thousands dead and up to two million displaced.

There is little doubt both government and rebel forces were guilty of atrocities during that conflict, many of them ethnic crimes. It is because of the nature of these crimes that the international community must be careful about mechanisms for ensuring peace.

History teaches us that the birth pangs of new nations can be extremely painful, and that the likelihood of violent struggle over divisions of race can be high. Many newly independent nations have subsequently fallen into internal strife. It took the United States 200 years to reduce discrimination in the law, and the country descended into a civil war in the process. Less than a hundred years ago, southern Ireland gained independence from the United Kingdom after an internal armed conflict surrounding differences of religion and a desire for self-government.

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Is it Time to Scrap the Minsk Agreement?

Hand-shakeOn June 22, Ambassador John Herbst and David Kramer debated whether we should bury the Minsk agreement, the troubled ceasefire agreement in Ukraine, at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, DC. Their remarks have been adapted from the debate.

It’s Time to Scrap the Minsk Agreement

By David J. Kramer

The Minsk ceasefire agreement, signed February 15, 2015, by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France, along with representatives from the OSCE and from Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk (DNR and LNR, respectively), is simply not working. It is time to scrap it and make clear to Russia, through a declaration from Western nations, that sanctions will remain in place—and will be increased over time—unless Russia meets several key conditions. These include withdrawal of its forces and weapons from Ukraine (including Crimea), respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, control of the border restored to Ukrainian authorities, and the return to Ukraine of those citizens it kidnapped from Ukrainian territory. Further negotiations with Moscow are pointless given that Russian officials won’t even acknowledge the presence of their forces on Ukrainian soil.

There have not been any new sanctions imposed on Russia despite its failure to live up to a single condition under the Minsk accord. Instead, a number of European leaders, led by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, along with the French parliament and others, have irresponsibly called for an easing if not outright lifting of sanctions. Without German Chancellor Angela Merkel, renewal of EU sanctions would be in jeopardy.

Defenders of Minsk argue it has reduced the fighting. In fact, more than four thousand Ukrainians have been killed since the second Minsk deal was signed last year, almost half the number of total casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2014. A serious uptick in fighting in the past two months further belies the claim that Minsk has preserved the peace.

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The Question of Women’s Roles in Conflict

Female Afghan National Police officers, courtesy NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/flickr

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 15 February 2016.

The U.S. Department of Defense has paid scant attention to the roles local women play in conflicts, either as aggressors, crucial fighting support, or powerful peace builders – to the detriment of global security.

Now that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has opened all military occupations to women in order to take advantage of the skills and perspectives they have to offer, perhaps this move will help it to overcome a bias that continues to handicap its operations: its lack of recognition of the critical contributions of local women in conflict areas. To date, multiple opportunities to defeat insurgents, stabilize communities and promote peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other countries have been squandered because of the military’s almost exclusive focus on the male half of populations.

As a result of this persistent exclusion in zones of conflict, commanders are effectively precluding themselves from taking advantage of all opportunities to defeat armed groups, mitigate the influence of malign forces, and facilitate peace and stability. Paradoxically, this obliviousness also directly contradicts military leaders’ contemporary emphasis on obtaining in-depth “situational awareness” in order to effectively deal with conflict.

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